Bears Can Get it Done Tonight/Lake Placid Pilgrimage

Game 5 of the East Division semifinal series between Hershey and the Albany River Rats takes place here in Glens Falls tonight, and the Bears are hoping to finish the business of this series right here and now. Of course, the plucky Rats have made every game a real battle. Hershey may have played its best overall game of the series in a 3-1 Game 4 win on Monday, but they’ll need to bring that intensity and effort — and then some — if they’re to get the weekend off.

The Bears had an off day on Tuesday. A handful of players skated at the Glens Falls Civic Center while Bears bench boss Bruce Boudreau regaled radio voice John Walton and I with some great stories of his days in the World Hockey Association.

Later in the day, Tim Leone and I made the 90-mile drive through the winding mountain roads of the Adirondacks to Lake Placid, site of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” game where the US Olympic Team staged an upset for the ages, downing Russia 4-3 on its way to a gold medal. The arena has been renamed Herb Brooks Arena, and the 1932 Olympic hockey rink is still there as well. It’s quite a feeling to pass through those doors, a feeling unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. My knees buckled a bit, and I could feel the tingles and the goose bumps immediately.

We went down to the benches, walked the perimeter of the rink, and stood in the tunnel where Brooks walked off after the game, letting his players enjoy the spotlight on the ice while he celebrated alone in the bowels of the rink. It felt like a church in a lot of respects.

It’s stunning that a sleepy little mountain hamlet like Lake Placid could host the Olympic Games not once, but twice. It’s a beautiful area, and the drive up was also breathtaking. There is still snow on the ground up in the mountains, and some of the streams and lakes up there still have ice floes on them. Driving through, you could see the water rushing down the sides of some of the mountain faces as the snow melted and spring muscled its way into the region. I’d recommend a trip up to Lake Placid for anyone who finds themselves in the area.

We got back just around dinner time, just as the Bears’ team bus was pulling out to take the boys to a team dinner. Let’s hope their evening around the table together brings a the tight group even closer, and that spring turns to summer for the Rats tonight.

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