AN: Hi, I've been lurking here for a little while and have become hooked on the Miracle story, so I thought I would try my hand at my own version. I hope you will enjoy it and give me some feedback. Although I was old enough to have witnessed the real event, I'm from Europe, so the impact of their achievements weren't really seen, so forgive me if I've taken a few liberties. My ID is taken from my OC and the story is told in first person from different points of view, which I admit is rather an experiment, so I would like to hear if you think it works.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything to do with the movie or the real story, I'm just celebrating their achievement in my own way.
Chapter 1 – Try Outs
The big screen was projecting in 1980's Technicolor the events in Lake Placid of February 22nd. It had all taken place for real several hours earlier and now we were kicking back with our families and friends and watching the game being broadcast to the nation as we celebrated. Everyone had said it couldn't be done, well everyone except one man, Coach Herb Brooks, he had badgered and hounded 20 young men for 7 months turning us into the team we were now. The Miracle Team they called us and I had to admit it was a pretty good feeling to know we had beaten the best team on ice for the last 20 years.
I looked around, a number of the guys were gathered nearby, making use of the large beanbag cushions and low sofas that dotted the main floor by the screen. A few others along with family members or girlfriends were using the floor.
"Hey!" OC called from where he was sprawled on the floor looking across at the woman currently wrapped in Robbie McClanahan's arms a few feet away. "How come you're with him? I'm still single and didn't we have a blast in Europe?"
"Bad timing Jack, you know that, besides I'm not your type and you know it," she answered quickly. I smiled, watching the interaction, no-one had expected them to show up together, but it had been obvious for a while that they were attracted to each other. I wondered if OC would take it any further, after all they had been together briefly in the beginning, until they both realised they weren't right for each other, not to mention the fact that she was still recovering after the massive shock she had received just after we started training.
"So dahlin' what are your plans when we leave here?" OC asked, not wanting to let go, "I hear Chicago's pretty cool in spring," he teased a big grin crossing his face, everyone knew he was going to sign with the Blackhawks after the Olympics and head to Chicago and his banter was clearly designed to rile Mac, but he just grinned knowingly back as he shifted slightly, sitting up straighter, he didn't look pissed, but I sensed something was about to happen.
"Actually it's Mrs McClanahan to you," he parried a serious look on his face. The room fell silent, those lying around on the floor seemed to bolt upright and glare at the couple. Jack managed to tip half a bottle of coke down him in the process. I saw the look she shot at Mac and the wink he gave her, the rest were still trying to breathe.
Mac stood up, pulling the girl to her feet next to him and wrapping his arm around her waist. "Guys," he began glancing around the room a little uneasily, "we've got a confession, ... we've been married since New Year," he announced.
The initial reaction was shock from most of the players, but they soon found their voices and started hollering and whooping, before crowding around the couple.
"I knew it!" someone called out, "told you I'd win."
"You were betting on us?" She asked, surprised.
"Most of them were, including Jack, but I wasn't," Jimmy offered giving her a hug and shaking hands with Mac, "I'm just glad you're happy, told you we'd get through this."
"So how much did the pool get to?" asked Mac.
"500 Bucks and it's all mine," Verchota repeated.
"Slow down man, that's when they got married, the important question is when did they actually get together?" Silky asked.
As the guys bantered for a few moments I stood back and watched them, we were really a cohesive unit now and I found it hard to believe that the couple had been together for some time and we hadn't realised. They had obviously down-played how close they had become.
But that's getting ahead of ourselves, we should go back to the beginning and trace our path to this point, however in order to get the full picture, I can't tell you the whole story so I've asked some of the key players to fill you in and it all began in July of 1979 at Colorado Springs.
I shifted the bag on my shoulder and closed the trunk of my car. A number of young men were already hanging around in preparation for the tryouts, they were laughing and jostling each other as they got in line, greeting old friends while they waited for the doors to open. I edged past them towards the security guard on duty, earning cat calls and wolf whistles from the growing crowd, even the guard raised his eyes when I made to enter the arena. I held up my AHA office badge for him to scrutinise then he let me in.
I had never been this close to anything like this before; the anticipation and anxiety was so thick you could almost reach out and touch it. I hadn't even dreamed a summer internship working in the offices of the AHA working with the Olympic advisory board would ever get me this close to the action. Of course it was exciting, but at the same time the butterflies in my stomach felt like they were trying to break free at the thought of me being one of the few w omen involved in the selection process of the US Ice Hockey team to compete at Lake Placid. Me, a 22 year old college graduate in my first job with no idea how to react to one man let alone the 60 odd that would be here today.
Once inside there was an air of anticipatory calm. I headed for the man at the registration desk. "Erm, hi, I'm Ellie Jensen, where can I find Walter Bush?" great start, I can barely string two words together even to one of the staff. He probably thinks I'm some groupie or something. Yeah I got the same suspicious look from him that the security guard gave me.
Finally he gave me directions and I started winding my way through the maze of corridors until I saw a doorway leading to the ice. The chair of the panel was there with several other members and I edged my way forward while trying to take in my surroundings. If I could keep my nerves under control I might just survive working around here for a few days.
"Excuse me, Mr Bush?" Making his apologies he removed himself from the group and turned to me with a warm smile, I had worked with him several times in the weeks leading up to this event, typing letters, making phone calls and such, so he already knew who I was.
"Ellie, thanks for coming down at such short notice. We could use your organisational skills a little this week. Can you handle a Polaroid, coach wants pictures of all the boys, we're expecting around 70, by the end of the week it'll be down to 26. Anything that needs phone calls or transport for getting the boys to Minneapolis will be your job too. Can you handle that?"
"Looks like I'm gonna be busy. Where can I work?" I answered as confidently as I could manage, I figured I could handle the office stuff no problem, even a Polaroid camera would be fine, pictures of the boys, as he put it was the part I wasn't so sure about and kept my fingers crossed that I wouldn't have to face them all at once. I suppressed the butterflies again in favour of listening to my instructions.
"Boys will come into the foyer get their photos & registration forms from you, then you pass them along the line. When they're all checked in there's an office by the locker rooms for you to use. Just let me know if there's anything you need."
"Alright. .. Thank you." I was definitely nervous now, but if I did a good job now, it would be good for any future resume, so I did my best to shake off those damned butterflies and headed towards the foyer once again. I headed towards the only other woman I'd seen, an older lady sorting numbers on one of the tables. She gave me a run down on the layout and the order of activity and where the stand was for the photos. She was kind but a little brusque, I almost got the feeling I was being swatted away like a fly, but I could tell it was about to get manic and she probably had other things to do.
Hockey tryouts for the US Olympic team, talk about male dominated and I felt I was about to be given a baptism of fire, well it would do one of two things, either send me running away or cure my shyness in male company, although I would have preferred a less dramatic option. I inhaled deeply and took up my post as a clang from the end of the corridor announced the doors were open, just seconds before the hum of voices approached me like a swarm of bees. The anticipatory calm was soon shattered by the hubbub of chatter and clattering equipment as the boys surged in, the hum now more of a roar. I picked up the camera, checked it was loaded with film and waited for my first customer to be herded in front of the board serving as the backdrop for the photo.
I think I was in one of the first groups let in, I'd exchanged a few words with people I'd met, most of them on opposing teams at one time or another, I hadn't run into any of my BU counterparts yet, but I knew they'd be around here someplace, but mostly the wait in line had given me the chance to look around. Guys with hockey gear were to be expected, what I hadn't expected was the young woman at the head of the line, she was probably my age, about a head shorter than me, not exactly a surprise with my 6 foot plus frame, but what really got me was the way she was fixated on practically one spot , she hardly looked at the line. As my turn crept closer, I was able to watch her more, she barely spoke to anyone, other than what was essential, she barely seemed to notice the guys teasing her while they waited and when she did hear stuff you could see a pink flush to her cheeks under her shoulder length red hair that fell across her face as she tried to refocus.
Finally the guy before me moved forward and I was at the front of the line. She wasn't bad looking, I imagined that she would have a pretty smile if she ever got the chance, but for now it was clear she was feeling a way out of her depth. I had a painfully shy younger sister, I knew the signs. Half the guys would want to get in her pants, but they'd only stand a chance if they were in for the long haul. After trying to hit on her and receiving a polite no the previous player ambled away and it was my turn. I moved forward and dropped my bag, standing on the spot marked on the floor, I could see she was struggling with the camera, seemed like she needed a new cartridge of film. It was kinda cute how she was apparently lost in her own world. Another barrage of sexist comments and pick up lines emanated from the crowd still queuing behind me; I could see she was tense, her fingers were white where she gripped the camera and struggled to load the film.
I stepped forward and stopped in front of her, slowly she raised her head and looked at me, she had the most amazing pale blue/grey eyes. "Hey, are you ok?" I asked, seeing the tears in her eyes. I hoped she wasn't about to cry.
"If you've done your form you need to book in over at the cage." I figured her answer was the one she'd been giving everyone, but then she seemed to blink and looked at me properly, rather than appearing to look through me. She was still struggling to put the new film box into the camera as she spoke and was getting frustrated over what should have been a simple task.
"I know. ... Here let me help" I eased the camera from her hands and she watched as I slid the box into the slot first time. "Don't let them worry you, everyone's just hyped up." I tried to reassure her, a flicker of relief seemed to run through her eyes and for a moment it seemed as if she relaxed.
"I know, ... Thanks" she answered taking the camera from me, then it seemed like she didn't know what to do next, she glanced around quickly and muttered, "I gotta get back to work ... Good luck" She added before stepping back and waiting for me to take my place again for the photo. The moment was over and I stepped away, watching her for a moment before I hoisted my gear onto my back and moved on.
An echo of more taunting reached my ears and I paused to look back "Hey, you're looking lost there baby want me to find you?" a voice called out from the line. She focused on her camera, then at the next person taking up a place in front of her.
"Forget it boys! Leave Ellie alone, she's here to take your pictures and if you're lucky enough to be chosen she'll be helping the Manager get you to training camp. I suggest you get your minds on the game, or you'll be outta here faster than a bullet!" A firm voice snapped at them, stunning them into silence for a minute. She took advantage of the quiet. "If you want to make yourselves useful, there are registration forms need filling out you can start while you're waiting for your photos." The older woman seemed the motherly type, probably had boys of her own at home, it didn't faze her dealing with all of us.
At least I knew the red head's name now, Ellie. I wondered if our paths would cross again as I headed for the locker room to stow my gear. Shortly after that I ran into OC and discovered one of the top names for a place on the squad had just been given a $30,000 signing bonus to turn pro. That kinda money would be useful to my family right now, but having talked it through with my dad we agreed that I should be here, fulfilling a promise I'd made to my Mom a few weeks before she died. Atlanta could wait a few more months.
I struggled into the press box a while later with a box of registration forms and a mug of coffee. I'd met Coach Brookes briefly when he came to talk to the committee about his vision for the team, of course I'd also heard about his reputation. Of course I was also aware what the committee had said about him, but that was information I was privileged to hear and not the sort of thing you discussed elsewhere. Coach Brookes looked up at the thud of the box landing heavily on the counter. "Those the registration forms?" he asked.
"Yes and coffee." I answered carefully placing the coffee next to him. "I sorted them in alphabetical order to make it easier for you to find what you want. I hope you don't mind, but I also left you a list of guys who'll need accommodation in Minneapolis if they're picked and those who'll need passports if you play any games in Europe to warm up. Can I do anything else?" I gave him a quick summary of how I'd arranged everything, I hoped he wouldn't mind the extra information or felt it wasn't my place to offer it.
"Not right now, ..." I had turned to leave when I heard him clear his throat. "Miss?" He couldn't be expected to remember someone he'd only met briefly so I introduced myself.
"Thanks Ellie, I hadn't thought of that"
"Guess I'm just used to organising stuff like that, I know what a pain it can be if you leave travel arrangements to the last minute, especially documentation." I then silently cursed myself for rambling like an idiot. I was still shaking from my stint in the lobby earlier taking photos.
"My wife normally does all that." He seemed kind of relieved he didn't have to think about it.
I didn't know how these things worked, and with my nerves my mouth just seemed to open and spill more vitriol, "... It's gonna be a challenge sorting out all your admin for the next 7 months, all the bills for the rink and the boys accommodation, not to mention plane tickets, medical care and buses. ... Hope you've got someone good to do all that for you."
"You looking for a job?" he sounded kind of brusque, but it was hard to ignore the half smile which crossed his face.
"I've got a job, working the summer for the AHA, I've got a job lined up from October, but I'm setting up the travel arrangements to get the team to the training camp at Lake Placid." I answered almost honestly. In fairness I was working with Walter and eventually the team Manager to prepare the logistics for the first phase of training. Lake Placid had been chosen for a number of reasons for their initial training camp. It was isolated, it would give them a chance to view some of the Olympic site, and more importantly to Herb Brookes it would keep the team out of the way of the NHL draft. I didn't know exactly how it worked, but the key was that if any of the team signed contracts with NHL clubs, it would be goodbye Olympics.
"That's good. ... Maybe I'll have to talk to the Team manager, bring you along with us, we're going to need all the help we can get."
"Mr Brooks, thank you for the offer, but I wouldn't even know where to start and like I said I've already got a job." For once I spoke up for myself, the thought of living around the team and their entourage frightening me even more.
"Be yourself, they'll love you, sometimes they're going to need a friend. You're closer to their age, you'll hear things I won't." There was possibly some truth in what he said, but I was under no illusions that I could be their friend, well except maybe for a Boston boy named Jimmy Craig, he seemed to be the only one so far who treated me normally.
"So you want me to spy on them?" I asked hesitantly wondering what his real agenda was.
"For their own good." He replied.
"I don't think so, but thank you for the offer." I answered heading towards the door as Craig Patrick, the assistant coach entered.
"At least think about it." He suggested before turning to Craig and letting me slip away.
A lot of the guys had seen her around the rink, she'd even taken a lot of their photos when they booked in; she'd been off on break when I got there, but I caught sight of her myself a few times later. Once I'd been with Jimmy at the vending machine when she'd walked past. I was a little envious when she gave him a shy smile as they greeted each other, needless to say I gave him a bit of a ribbing about it afterwards. He said she reminded him of his 17 year old sister Jenny, if that was the case I was even more surprised that she was there at all. Jenny was the quiet studious type, she'd had no interest in boys and even now she still hadn't been on a real date and if this Ellie girl was like her, she was in for a seriously rough ride with 68 virile hockey players around.
I was back on the ice when I saw her again later, she was standing watching us as we ran the drills the aides gave us. I managed to grab a couple of minutes to catch my breath, so I was leaning on the boards a few feet from her when I saw her jump as Walter Bush came up behind her. I watched as they spoke for a moment, then she turned to leave, stopping and walking back as he said something else to her. I wasn't close enough to hear them, especially with the noise on the ice, but it was clear from her body language that whatever he'd said had shocked her. I would have given almost anything to be a fly on the window beside them to find out what they were discussing, sadly I wasn't that lucky and got called back to the drill, so I didn't even get to see her reaction at the end of the conversation.
I had been aware of the guys looking at me as they skated past me, but Jimmy's friend seemed to be pausing just a little too long to catch his breath a few feet away from where I stood as Walter came around. When he said he wanted to talk to me at first I thought there was something I'd done wrong so I asked, hoping to be able to put it right, but he was quick to reassure me.
"Nothing, actually it's the opposite, Herb called me, said something about making yourself useful with the arrangements. I understand you just graduated and don't have plans yet, they're going to need someone with good organisational skills to help get them from A to B."
"Actually I do, I've applied for a job as a teaching assistant in Denver," I told him the idea of sticking around the guys making me feel sick, of course it didn't help that OC or whoever appeared to still be watching us.
"Applied doesn't mean you'll get it. I'm offering you a guaranteed slot until after the Olympics."
"What would I have to do?" I asked my eyes drifting to the guys on the ice, wondering if there was any way I could rise to the challenge.
Walter waited for me to turn my attention back to him. "Type up letters, act as a point of contact when they're in practice, make sure they get to where they need to be for the pre games schedule, keep the files, we can see how things go and maybe a few more tasks can fall your way. you've been a great help at the AHA the last few weeks. What do you say?"
"The AHA was a summer job before I start work, with things as they are the job market isn't good. I could be taking a big risk."
"Sometimes it's worth it, everyone on this team is taking a risk, we're not guaranteed anything at the Olympics, we're coming from the back of the field, but everyone involved is determined to do their best. Will you think about it?"
Walter gave me a courteous nod, "it would look good on a resume," he added then turned and walked away. I turned back to watch the action on the ice for a few more minutes, noting that OC was now gone from his vantage point and was in the thick of the action as they started to run plays. For the moment Jimmy seemed to be out on his own, standing between the pipes waiting for the rest to approach the goal, but from the way he rocked and swayed and waved his arms around it was clear he was yelling stuff at them.
I was tempted by the offer, they were all right, working for the Olympic team would look good on a resume, but for a girl coming from a sheltered background and thanks to an all girls school, I was completely out of my depth in dealing with the opposite sex, I wondered if I was really cut out for the job I'd been offered. I knew one person who would give me an objective view and I couldn't wait for him to return from his business trip so that I could discuss it with him.
Thanks for reading ...