Rapid City man recounts 1980 Miracle on Ice

RAPID CITY, S.D. — February 22nd, 1980, 40-years ago. The Winter Olympics were being held in Lake Placid, New York when the impossible happened — a miracle. There to celebrate was a Rapid City man who endured a very long trip to be at the winter games.

It was the American hokey team’s time – if not the country’s time. A group of college students and other amateur hockey players pulling off the impossible against the professional Soviet team – which had not lost an Olympic hockey game in 12 years.

Anyone who saw this game knows where they were and with whom they watched it.

In 1980, an Air Force vet by the name of Steven Habib, who worked for the Rapid City post office, decided he needed to go to the Olympics. Steve wanted to be there so badly he took a 1,442-mile bus trip from Rapid City to Lake Placid. The Rapid City Journal wrote about his excursion.

“I wanted to go to the Winter Olympics, in general. Yes, the hockey did help, but I liked seeing all of that,” Steve said.

A man who soaked in the Olympic experience, Steve still has the Olympic banner he bought in Lake Placid. He found a large photo of the hockey team at a gas station, and he still has his hockey tickets from 1980.

Through no fault of his own – Steve wasn’t able to get in to the see the miracle game.

“You put your money in, right… and say what do you want to go to. And you go into a pool, the way I understood it. But we didn’t know what game we’re going to have. You just try to have hockey.”

He did get tickets for the game before the miracle, when the U.S. came from behind to beat West Germany.

Though in Lake Placid, but on the short end of the ticket lottery, Steve watched the Soviet game like most did — on T.V. But he had a big advantage – Steve could celebrate in what was the center of the world in that place in time.

“The electricity, though, where you hear USA, USA. Even when they were down they were cheering even then. You felt like they couldn’t lose.”

Two days later – the Americans again came from behind to clinch the gold medal against Finland.

For Habib it was an incredible victory that has come to mean more over the past four decades.

“The Russians were professional. These guys were college kids. Its true…there’s not to hide behind, it’s true. That’s what I took away from it. Anybody can beat anybody.”

Sometimes impossible dreams, and miracles, come true.

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