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Skate in the footsteps of America’s hockey legends at Squaw

Ice skaters can feel the Olympic presence at Squaw Valley while taking some laps at High Camp.
Courtesy of Mark McLaughlin |

The recent cold snap and lack of snow has made for some good ice skating conditions at local rinks and also on some of the smaller ponds at the North Shore. But the most dramatic place for skating in the Lake Tahoe region is at High Camp at Squaw Valley. A tram ride takes you to this high altitude rink at 8,200 feet, which provides spectacular views of Lake Tahoe. An adjacent Olympic Museum showcases memorabilia from the 1960 Winter Olympics held at Squaw Valley.

One of the most compelling stories from the 1960 Winter Games depicts the underdog United States hockey team against the world’s best skaters, and one that ended with an American gold medal as a team of amateurs stole the show. Blyth Arena at Squaw was packed with spectators for the big contest between the U.S. and a favored Canadian team, while millions more watched at home on live television. When the buzzer sounded on a 2-to-1 American victory spectators went crazy with delight.

The next key test for the U.S. team was the highly anticipated matchup against the Soviet Union. When that game also ended with an American win over the defending world champions, pandemonium rocked Blyth Arena. The huge upset victory set up a final match between the U.S. and Czechoslovakia on the last day of the Olympics.



The Czechs employed the same aggressive style of quick play that had earned the Russians a gold medal in 1956, but after the big win against the Soviet Union the night before the Americans were spent.

At first the U.S. team kept up with the flashy Czechs, but during the second period they fell behind 4 to 3. Exhausted from their physical and emotional battle with the Russians, the American skaters were running out of gas.



During the second intermission Nickolai “Solly” Sologubov, the Soviet hockey team captain, told American coach Jack Riley that his players could boost their energy levels by inhaling pure oxygen. Riley managed to find a tank and some of the players inhaled the gas in the hope that it would help fight their fatigue. Solly’s suggestion wasn’t a completely altruistic gesture. The Russians could still win a silver or bronze medal if the Czechoslovakian team lost to the Americans.

The atmosphere was tense in Blyth Arena as the third period went nearly six minutes without a goal before the American’s high-powered offense kicked into overdrive. In a sudden explosion of firepower, the U.S. scored six goals to surge past the Czechs.

The team’s amazing 9-to-4 victory made international headlines and clinched the first U.S. gold medal in Olympic ice hockey competition.

The American media had given the U.S. hockey team virtually no chance of placing higher than fifth at the Games. After their remarkable victory, however, the same pundits who said they were bound to lose proclaimed them the “Team of Destiny.”

Lake Tahoe historian Mark McLaughlin is a nationally published author and professional speaker. His award-winning books are available at stores or at http://www.thestormking.com. Mark can be reached at mark@thestormking.com. Check out Marks blog: http://www.tahoenuggets.com.


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