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First "Miracle On Ice" Fantasy Camp Proves To Be A Success

By Jason Franchuk | April 05, 2015, 11:31 p.m. (ET)

1980 Olympic ice hockey gold medalist Mark Johnson coaches the blue team at the "Miracle on Ice" fantasy camp on March 30, 2015 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Campers receive their USA Hockey jerseys at the "Miracle on Ice" fantasy camp on March 29, 2015 in Lake Placid, N.Y. 

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Marcus Noble walked around Lake Placid’s Main Street Thursday morning, after the first “Miracle on Ice” fantasy camp ended. He still couldn’t get over what he had just experienced.

Over three days this week in the Adirondack Olympic town, Noble and 55 other campers spent unforgettable time with 11 members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Ice Hockey Team that beat the Soviet Union and then went on to win an unlikely gold medal.

The camp included tours of the Lake Placid facilities, meals and hangout time with the Olympians, as well as ice-time that included tryouts and games, with the “Miracle on Ice” players serving as coaches.

Yet for Noble, what stuck with him most was the camaraderie still shared by the U.S. players.

“Even 35 years later, it’s really cool,” Noble said. “Not many people can say they remember their friends from that far back.”

The Miracle group included team captain Mike Eruzione, who scored the game-winning goal against the heavily favored Soviets, as well as Neal Broten, Dave Christian, John Harrington, Steve Janaszak, Mark Johnson, Ken Morrow, Ken Ramsey, Buzz Schneider, Dave Silk and Mark Wells.

While mixing with the campers, the Olympians were constantly joking and sharing stories. It was a glimpse of what it had to be like to be part of one of America’s most transcendent teams.

“They’ll make lifelong friendships like we had on our team,” said Harrington, who continues to be amazed at how many people say they were at that game.

The 1980 team had a 35-year reunion here in February, and the follow-up extravaganza included campers from nearly 30 states who paid close to $6,000 each. Virtually every expense was included except air travel to Albany, New York.

It was worth every penny, if you ask many of them.

1980 Olympic ice hockey gold medalist Mike Eruzione speaks to "Miracle on Ice" fantasy campers on March 29, 2015 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Moe Normandin sipped coffee while watching his son, Ron, roam the ice. Ron was about 25 when he watched from New Hampshire as Team USA beat Russia and Finland to earn a most unlikely gold medal.

“The boy was young, and he was just starting to watch the (Boston) Bruins,” Moe said. “But next thing you know, there’s rinks popping up all over the place. It was quite a thing. Even today, what that event is doing for the whole area is awesome.”

It wasn’t just about reminiscing. It was about the hockey.

Camper Kim Kruckenberg took some grief from her teammates for getting a little too comfortable on the ice. She earned a roughing penalty on the way to reaching the gold-medal game.

“Unintentional,” she said with a big laugh. “Someone turned around and hit me with a stick, and I had to protect myself.”

Kruckenberg was in town with her husband, David, and they celebrated a 16th wedding anniversary at the famous arena, which is virtually unchanged by time.

The couple was put on opposite teams and chose to leave that fate unchanged, too. She delighted in being one of two women at the camp and feeling just like one of the guys in the locker room.

Craig Levitz of the Philadelphia area was glad he signed up the very last day.

“One time, why not?” the father of two said.

He scored one of the camp’s more priceless goals, redirecting a teammate’s shot for a tie score in the closing minute of one game. Levitz remembers being 11 and watching those underdog Americans score goal after exhilarating goal.

Camp workers prided themselves on a first-class experience that was more than merely hobnobbing. There were sleek uniforms and other souvenirs. Snacks were laid out (peanut butter, fruit, sports drinks) by the locker rooms. Skate sharpening could be done between periods, too.

A "Miracle on Ice" fantasy camper takes a shot during the on-ice portion of the camp on March 31, 2015 in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Those little touches and behind-the-scenes access made Mary Noble glad she convinced her son, Marcus, to sign up.

They went back and forth a few months ago about the cost. He was hesitant to take a few days off from his job running hardware stores in upstate New York.

Mary, who was at the game against Finland that clinched the gold medal, insisted.

“I wanted him to go, so I’d sign up as a guest,” Mary Noble said.

Her son confirms the threat: If Marcus didn’t go, she said she would pay for one of his hockey-playing friends to go instead.

Mary and Noble’s girlfriend, Emily Davis, sat center ice Thursday. They were perched underneath an Olympic flag. They waved a U.S. flag and rang a cowbell whenever their rooting interest’s team scored a goal. Marcus scored one time and he had to laugh about it. He received a pass from the other team, as an opposing player forgot what color jersey he was wearing.

Campers were given two jerseys, white and blue. Everyone sported (go figure) the No. 80.

Otherwise, it was a one-of-a-kind experience.

“They’ve all been super nice,” Mary Noble said of the 1980 Olympians. “Everyone was intimidated to talk to them at first. But they’ve just been really polite, friendly, very good with conversations.”

A future camp has been more than talked about — it's already scheduled for April 3-7, 2016.

Jason Franchuk is a writer from the Albany, New York, area. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.