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Tailing the Komets

Miracle Worker

This is from Feb. 6, 2004. Today is the 33rd anniversary of beating the Russians. Where were you when you heard about this, and don't say you were watching it live on TV because it wasn't on. It was shown a good two hours after it happened by ABC.

Continued in the first comment.




Blake Sebring
Fri, 02/22/2013 - 1:02pm

Movie gives former K's and 1980 Olympians Mark Wells and Steve Janaszak greater appreciation for legendary coach Brooks

Author: Blake Sebring, bsebring@news-sentinel.com

 Mark Wells climbed into his shower Tuesday night needing to talk with Herb Brooks, the legendary hockey coach who died Aug. 11 in an automobile accident.

The night before, Wells attended the Hollywood premiere of "Miracle," the story of the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team, which was pushed by Brooks to a stunning upset of the Russians and, eventually, the gold medal.

"My spiritual belief is that he's only a blink away," the former Komets center said. "Now I can go on with life. 'Thank God for this movie, Herb, because I finally understand what you did.' There were some tears there."

Wells and former Komets goaltender Steve Janaszak were members of that team, and in particular, Brooks continually manipulated Wells. Several times Wells was shipped out to minor-league teams before being recalled the week before the Olympics.

Wells was the last man named to the team that created history. Though he scored two goals and played a vital defensive role in the Olympics, Wells has tried for 24 years to make sense of Brooks and his Olympic experience. Monday night he finally found some peace with Brooks.

"The movie was so accurate that it made me feel like I got a monkey off my back," Wells said. "I understand him more so now than I ever did, even though I talked to him for years. Once you see the movie, you'll understand where I come from and what we went through as players. He tried to push us to a level beyond what we knew, and the results show what happened."

Wells, now 46, played 17 games for the Komets during the 1981-82 season, which turned out to be his last as a player. The experience with the Olympic team had stolen his fire for the game. He's now recovering from three major back surgeries and finishing up his college work at Walsh College.

Janaszak, 47, had a similar experience with the movie. A goaltender with the Komets during the 1980-81 season, he was 9-5-1 in pre-Olympic play but sat the bench in Lake Placid behind Jim Craig. He's now an investment banker living in Babylon, N.Y.

"I know the ending, we all know the ending, but even more than that I know the process," Janaszak said. "I lived through how that was all put together, and they take this story and in two hours pull all those emotions out of me."

Kurt Russell stars as Brooks and is the main focus of the story. Janaszak said Russell was so good in his portrayal it was almost like he was channeling Brooks, whom Janaszak also played for at the University of Minnesota.

The worst thing about sports movies are usually the sports scenes because they rarely come close to reality. But both Wells and Janaszak said "Miracle" comes pretty close.

"With the actual hockey footage, you could think you were watching a real game," Janaszak said. "It's all the way down to when Mike (Eruzione) scores the game-winning goal against the Russians, and there are still 10 minutes left in the game. It's less time in the film, but it's phenomenal how they put that together. You get concerned that this thing could come apart at any time."

"You are going to find that this movie is not totally a sports movie," Wells said. "It's far beyond that. I think in the end you are going to understand Herb's point. For me, this puts closure on who was this guy and why did he do it this way."

The team members are working on a book to commemorate their 25th anniversary next year, and Wells is hoping to write a book about his own experiences. The movie has provided understanding but also refreshed memories.

"I got goose bumps watching it, and some tears, too," Wells said. "This brought the whole crowd of Hollywood people to their feet chanting, 'USA, USA' and that's hard to do."

This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. You can reach Blake Sebring at bsebring@news-sentinel.com.

Fri, 02/22/2013 - 2:31pm

Just awesome Blake. Brought back memories and the movie was so incredible. I was at Northrop's gymnaisum watching a hoop game and they announced that we won. I was in total shock.

Blake Sebring
Fri, 02/22/2013 - 2:42pm

I was at Harding watching two top 5 teams as Harding played South Side.

Fri, 02/22/2013 - 5:43pm

I was at my apartment.  The game was tape delayed to be shown later on ABC.  The only bad thing that happened was during a local news break between shows, and at least an hour before the game was broadcast, 21 Alive anchor man Keith Edwards came on and said,  "and the United States beat the Soviet Union 4-3."  He totally gave it away, even though his own network was going to telecast the game later.

The only thing that came close to that was when channel 33 anchor man Dick Florea reported that the Vatican had elected it's first non-Catholic Pope.   He meant ,of course, the first non-Italian Pope.