This was a big week for USA Hockey milestones. Monday was the 36th anniversary of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" game and Wednesday was the anniversary of Team's USA's gold medal victory over Finland that followed their upset of the USSR.
February 22nd was also the birthday of Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine, who recently sat down with New York Times hockey writer Allan Kreda at the Brooklyn Historical Society to talk about how the "Miracle on Ice" inspired him as a young player and what it meant to play for Team USA at the 1984 Olympics with other kids who grew up after the '80 games. LaFontaine, who scored 468 goals over 15 seasons for the Islanders, Sabres and Rangers, also chats about Team USA's win at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, which he calls one of his greatest hockey memories.
The above video was aired during the pre-game show before last night's Islanders-Wild game.
Born in St. Louis and raised in Michigan, LaFontaine was drafted third overall by the Islanders in 1983 and joined them a year later in their run to their fifth Stanley Cup final. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003. He's currently the founder of Companions in Courage, a charity for hospitalized children.
I wrote last year about my adoration for LaFontaine and what he meant to the post-Dynasty Islanders generation. We hear a lot about how the 1980 Olympics inspired many of today's players, but it might be more fascinating to hear about the effect the game had on American-born players at the time. LaFontaine and Chris Chelios played in the '84 games and others like Joe Mullin and Bobby Carpenter didn't, but all played in an era when America was finally being seen as a producer of top hockey talent. In that context, you can see why winning gold at the World Cup of Hockey means so much to LaFontaine.
It would be nice to see him involved in return of the World Cup, being played this coming Fall in Toronto.