Before the Blackhawks took on the Rangers Wednesday night, former Hawks defenseman and member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, Jack O'Callahan, dropped the puck to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the night Team USA defeated the Soviet Union in Lake Placid, New York on Feb. 22, 1980.
Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin took the faceoff as team representatives. O'Callahan tossed Kane the puck and the United Center erupted in laughter.
"I saw a Russian and an American facing off and I was like, 'there's not a chance I'm even going to risk this Russian winning that draw,'" O'Callahan said. “I kind of looked at Kaner and I just fired it through his legs, and he just kind of started laughing. But I'm sure he expected it. Even though we're generations apart, we're still teammates."
After conquering the Soviets in the “Miracle on Ice,” Team USA went on to win gold over Finland.
They were a team of young college players, while the Soviet Union, who was heavily favored to win gold in Lake Placid, consisted of professional athletes with significant experience in international play. To top it off, this all transpired in the middle of the Cold War.
"It really sort of hit us when we went down to Washington, D.C. to have lunch with the president and that's when we got around the politics, the fact that the U.S. wasn't going to the Moscow Olympics, and with the hostages and everything else going on.
"Once we get down to D.C., we came back to reality," O'Callahan said. "Being in Lake Placid was a really special place. It's always been our home. It's just a real comfortable place for us and it was great to be there. A little cocoon. But once we got down to D.C., we came back to the real world.
The former defenseman credits the “Miracle on Ice” for the surge of American players in the NHL.
"You got to go back to the late 70s and early 80s. Americans didn't play in the National Hockey League. We were flashes in the pan. We were in college," O'Callahan said. "We were all good players but we never got a shot to play in the NHL. It was run by Canadians and they all looked at Americans... they looked down at us.
"What we really did from a hockey perspective was we showed the world and we showed these NHL people that Americans can actually play hockey. We're pretty good at it. I think all through the 80s what we did was we blew up that glass ceiling and we created a lot of opportunities for the next generation of American hockey players."
The Charlestown native was asked if he thinks NHL players should play in the Olympics.
"I got to tell you, the way the Olympics are it's just getting bigger and bigger," O'Callahan said. "I just think, frankly, that the NHL is such a great forum for women's sports. I'd almost like to see all the men just go do something else and just have the women-only Olympics.
"Because that's when people are really paying attention and watching, and it's really fun and they compete so hard. I'm not sure professional, I don't know how that's going to play out, professional women's sports. But the Olympics, you don't need NHL players in the Olympics or NBA players in the Olympics.
"We see enough of these guys. Let’s watch some of these great women compete. It's some of the greatest drama and emotion you'll ever see. So the Olympics is a great place for that."
O'Callahan was selected by Chicago in the sixth round (96th overall) of the 1977 NHL Draft and played five season with the Blackhawks from 1982 to 1987.