Chris Capps was too young to comprehend what the “Miracle on Ice” meant to America almost 40 years ago, but he’ll never forget what it meant to his dad.
“I was probably only 5 or 6 during the game. I remember my dad being super excited that we won,” Capps said. “I didn’t understand the significance, but I knew it was a big deal. A really big deal.”
Team USA’s surprise 4-3 victory over the Soviet Union’s men’s ice hockey team at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics was the stuff of instant and enduring sports legend.
Now Capps is responsible for handling and caring for one of that game’s iconic artifacts, as it makes its way to the walls of the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs. It’s now in secure exhibit storage at the Space Foundation Discovery Center while construction wraps on the South Sierra Madre Street museum.
“At first I was told I was just unloading a scoreboard off of a truck and bringing it into the warehouse,” said Capps, a facilities technician at the Discovery Center. “I didn’t know until the day before it got here what that scoreboard actually was. Then I was nervous, because it’s more than just a scoreboard.”
The carefully packed and crated 850-pound panel arrived in the Springs earlier this year after almost four decades of service and brief storage at the Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y., where it was one of four identical pieces that formed a suspended scoreboard cube.
“It’s dirty and worn and … when it came out, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I guess,” Capps said. “But it hung for a lot of years. It’s still pretty neat.”
The sign was decommissioned in 2017, and if not for a pivotal connection on the museum’s board, it might have been doomed to gather dust in storage.
“Our board chair at the U.S. Olympic Museum is Dave Ogrean, who was the executive director of USA Hockey for many years, and he was contacted by folks in Lake Placid letting him know they had this wonderful artifact and was curious if the museum had an interest in it,” museum interim Chief Operating Officer Peter Maiurro said. “We of course said ‘yes,’ and we’re delighted that it’s now here in Colorado Springs.”
The panel will be mounted in the museum’s special events space, where it will be electrified and “on display all the time,” Maiurro said. “This is the single largest item we have so far. It is certainly one of the most significant artifacts we have … one of the first that we’ve collected.”
The analog sign will join a collection of curated memorabilia and high-tech exhibits at what will be the “only museum of its kind” in the world, he said.
“There are other Olympic museums … but our content will be very unique, a one-of-a-kind experience,” he said. “We’re excited to continue to finish out the project and have the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame open to Colorado Springs and all of our guests from throughout the U.S., in the spring of 2020.”