By Michael McHugh Reporter News Sports
January 14, 2005, Wild assistant coach an Olympic hero
Most of the Aeros players werent even born, or are way too young to remember, when the 1980 U.S. Hockey team made history and won the Olympic gold medal in Lake Placid, New York.
The team, nicknamed Miracle on Ice, beat the favored Soviet Union 4-3, and went on to beat Finland in the final game 4-2 to win Olympic Gold. (Many people forget that they didnt win the gold playing the Soviets, they still had to face Finland).
Twenty-five years later, one of the stars of that Miracle team, defenseman Mike Ramsey, is still going strong. Just in a different role.
Ramsey is an assistant head coach for the Minnesota Wild. He joined the organization in July of 2000. Prior to that he played in the National Hockey League for 18 seasons, 14 with Buffalo Sabres, a year-and-a-half with the Pittsburg Penguins, and two years with the Detroit Red Wings, where he went to the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals. After retiring, he spent three years as an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres.
Ramsey, a Minnesota native, began skating around the age of three at a local park. He enjoyed the sport and played on his high school team, where he also played football and tennis. From there he played hockey for a year at the University of Minnesota. While he was in college, he shoveled blacktop driveways to earn money.
In 1979, Ramsey became the youngest player ever selected in the NHL draft.
One year later, he was playing on an Olympic team.
He was 18 at the time, and was the youngest player on the team. Twenty-eight guys were picked for the final tryout, and from there they would have to cut eight guys. It was a nerve racking experience for Ramsey.
Just to make the final cut was really exciting and obviously making the team was something I didnt think would happen because of my age, said Ramsey.
He took a lot of ribbing and teasing, but after a while, he settled in and was no different that anybody else on the team. There was a seven year age difference from youngest to oldest, and he actually enjoyed being the youngest guy because everything was new to him.
To be chosen was a once in a lifetime experience. He was excited that his parents were at the game and that they got to see him play in the Olympics.
I think I enjoyed watching their faces almost more than I enjoyed the winning thing, said Ramsey. To be a part of something like that is hard to put into words. Everybody should get the experience for something like that.
The USA team was a group of guys who were strong, skilled and determined to prove themselves.
A week before the Olympics, they played the Soviets in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden, and got beat 10-3. It wasnt even close, so they werent expecting to beat them at the games, and didnt have the confidence they could beat them. They just wanted to stay competitive and were more worried about getting embarrassed and getting beaten badly in front of the world.
But something happened after that game. They found their confidence a week later, in front of the world. During the game, they realized that they could play with them and stunned the Soviets by defeating them 4-3.
It was funny, said Ramsey. After we beat the Soviets, it was such a great feeling, but the pressure flipped and was on us. It was enormous because we still had to play another game.
Standing on the podium to receive his medal, he was proud to be an American and proud to be a hockey player. Chilling, he said, describing how he felt, and great satisfaction.
In February 2004, Disney released a hit movie, Miracle on Ice, based on the 1980 Team USA and coach Herb Brooks. While the movie was fairly close to the real life situation, Hollywood did stress a few things.
Herb Brooks was a tough man and hard to play for. I can tell you (after seeing the movie), he wasnt that nice (laughs). He was a lot nicer in the movie.
But Brooks knew what made players tick and he could push the right buttons.
He was outside the box on his hockey philosophies, and he thought different than a lot of people and was very stubborn said Ramsey. He knew how to get us to play and get the most out of us. Obviously, he put together the right team.
Today, Ramsey enjoys his role with the Minnesota Wild.
He will tell you that hockey is a hard way to make an easy living. While he had most of the summers off, the toughest part was being away from home and his family during the season. There was a lot of traveling without many days off, and with three kids, he missed them.
The stress bothers you a little bit, but theres nothing but the best feeling of winning, and the satisfaction you get when you win.
At a recent practice, Ramsey spent some time on the ice, helping Aeros players with their game. Theyre doing well, and coming along nicely, he said. Its nice to be around them a little bit and to get to know some of the players I wouldnt get to see during the normal NHL season.
For the players, they will certainly learn all they can from a man who once made hockey history and made people believe in miracles.
Just For Fun:
What are your hobbies?
I like fishing, golfing, hockey and spending time with my kids.
Most Memorable Hockey Moment
Winning the gold medal in Lake Placid
If you could have any other job, what would it be?
I did own a sporting goods store for a year after I retired and before I became a coach. Maybe something in the financial world.
Youd never catch me
Flying when I dont have to.
If someone made a movie about you, who would play you?
Nick Nolte. I like him as an actor. Hes kind of scruffy. But it would have to be a little bit younger Nick Nolte.