Remembering the 1980 Winter Olympics
By Dean Contover
We woke up at 7:30 a.m., warmed up the van and left Waitsfield, Vermont, heading for the Olympic Games at Lake Placid, New York. It was the last day of the XIII Olympic Games. The final games were going to be played for the Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals in ice hockey. The first game would begin at 11:00 a.m. Sunday morning between the United States and Finland. It was a must win for the U.S.A. if they were going to capture the Gold Medal.
We arrived at one of the parking areas, payed $5.00 to park, and ran to the bus for Downtown Lake Placid. We asked someone the time and heard it was 10:30 a.m. We knew it took a half hour to get up the mountain to the hockey arena. I was afraid we wouldn’t make it by 11:00 a.m. We wanted to buy tickets from scalpers because there were no tickets available otherwise. The event was sold out. (The week before we had been able to buy tickets for any event at prices far below the printed ticket price).
The street sellers had set up shop between the new ice hockey rink and the speed skating oval. I asked the bus driver if he would let us off at the ice hockey rink. The time was now 10:55 a.m. We quickly walked down to where there were street people selling tickets. I knew from past experiences going to sporting events and rock concerts that once the event begins, the price of the tickets would come down. I decided that we would pay no more than thirty dollars for one ticket.
I mingled with the ticket buyers, listening to the prices and just waited for the price to come down to where we wanted it. I overheard one seller tell his girlfriend to hurry up and sell her tickets because the game had already started and he wanted to get inside to see the game. The gentleman still had a fist full of tickets left. I approached him and said, “I’ll give you thirty dollars each for two.” Very quickly he said “OK.” You could tell by his voice that he did not want to let go of these tickets for such a low price. I said, “Let me look at the tickets.” I wanted to make sure that these were not tickets to another event. I looked at the price of the ticket which was printed on it. It was $56.00. I knew it was the most expensive ticket one could buy. The seller said, “These are damn good seats.” He didn’t have to tell us they were located 13 rows behind the net, just overlooking the Plexiglas. I said, “We’ll take them.” And quickly game him 30 American dollars.
The game had already begun. We ran into the arena and sat in our seats. To our amazement, the game was four minutes old. We sat at the edge of our seats with the crowed yelling U.S.A. and waving more flags than one would see on Veterans Day. I guess just about everyone in the United States had their eyes glued to their television sets to watch one of the best sporting events this country has ever seen. I thought to myself, 220 million people in this country and 10,000 at this historic game. Everyone in the country will swear that they were at the game.
As everyone knows by now, the U.S.A. defeated the brave Finnish team, 4-2, and won the Gold Medal in Ice Hockey.
“U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A,” will always haunt me for the rest of my life.