Ken Morrow's phone has been ringing a lot lately, a sure sign the Olympics are approaching. "I become a story every four years," he said, smiling.
Morrow, a defenseman on the triumphant 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team and now director of pro scouting for the New York Islanders, takes his quadrennial fame with good humor. And he's proud that even though five Winter Games have taken place since Lake Placid, he remains the only player who has won an Olympic gold medal and Stanley Cup championship in the same year.
"I thought for sure in the last Olympics, having pros in there, someone else would do it," said Morrow, who joined the Islanders a few days after the Games and helped them win the first of four consecutive Stanley Cup titles. "It lasted for another four years, anyway. But it's going to happen. Hopefully, it will be someone from the U.S. who does it."
Morrow believes the U.S. men have a good chance at the Salt Lake City Games because of the continued development of home-grown talent and the certainty of staunch fan support.
"Being at home certainly was a big advantage for us," he said, "and I think that will be true again, especially with what happened Sept. 11. I think there will be a lot of patriotism.
"I look back at what happened in the World Cup in '96 [when the U.S. upset Canada] and I think that really opened everybody's eyes to the talent pool we had to draw on. Basically, it's the same crop of players, with a couple of additions, and that bodes well.
"I think one thing the average fan is going to have to realize is this isn't like the [U.S.-dominated] Olympic basketball tournament. There's not going to be a super team. There's going to be five or six teams on pretty equal footing."
He also scoffs at suggestions a U.S. gold medal would constitute a second "miracle on ice," even though the host country and the coach--Herb Brooks--will be the same.
"It's like night and day. The whole circumstances are different," Morrow said. "With professionals involved and even stronger teams everywhere in the world, there's no comparison."
Morrow said he hopes to see some games at Salt Lake City, where he might be joined by some of his 1980 teammates. Before that, he will reunite with many of them in Los Angeles for an exhibition game and other events connected with the Feb. 2 NHL All-Star game. The entire team has not been together since they visited the White House after their victory: the best turnout has been 16 or 17, usually without reclusive forwards Mark Wells and Mark Pavelich.
"I know where Mark Wells is, but Mark Pavelich hasn't been heard from for 21 years," Morrow joked. "We may have to send one of those drone planes or Global Positioning Satellites to find him in the northern Minnesota woods."
Gold Medal Memories
Jim Craig, the goaltender on the triumphant 1980 U.S. team, hopes the All-Star game reunion will boost the country's spirits as much as the team's victory at Lake Placid did.
"Based on how the world was affected since Sept. 11, we were part of an era when people's confidence was down and we helped raise it," Craig said Wednesday. "We can be part of a real positive time in people's lives now.... I think the Olympians who are going to be representing our country are going to see the response to us and hear the 'USA' chant and will understand the responsibility of wearing the USA uniform. They're the values of America--unity, patriotism and hard work."
Craig and several teammates will participate in four "Good Hands" youth clinics in Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington and New York before the All-Star festivities. The 1980 players will skate against an NHL Legends team Feb. 1 on a specially constructed rink in the Convention Center.
"Everyone remembers where they were when the team won in 1980," said Rob Apatoff, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Allstate and a key figure in reuniting the scattered Olympians. "Usually when you ask people where they were, it's negative events. That was so positive. These guys deserve the right to come back."
Craig, who is in retail sales and does motivational speaking, said the Salt Lake team will have to balance home-country advantage against the pressure of high expectations.
"I hope they're prepared for the responsibility," said Craig, whose wife is from Salt Lake City and plans to attend the Games. "I think they saw the negative light [at Nagano, where several players trashed a dorm room]. Going there because you're a well-known name or a talent isn't enough. This is about who we are. Maybe a little mentoring from us will help them."
Highs and Lowes
Edmonton Oiler General Manager Kevin Lowe didn't suddenly become a fan of the Olympics when the NHL players joined the party in 1998.