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Adams: The Ultimate Example of Team

One of the main requests I get from meeting players or organizational leaders is to speak with an emphasis on team. For various reasons in recent years building and keeping a team spirit within an organization has become challenging.

I truly believe what happened between July of 1979 and the Miracle on Ice of 1980 was one of the greatest examples of team building in American history, and one major reason why is the remarkable story of Steve Janaszak.

I often get emotional in delivering Mystical Lake Placid and the Miracle on Ice, and sometimes it is when I tell his story. Steve was 1st Team All American goalie in 1979 and had led Herb Brooks’ University of Minnesota team to the National  Championship. You would think he would have been Team USA’s goalie in Lake Placid, but Brooks went with the right players and not always the best players. He felt Jim Craig had the hot hand and he was going to ride him the whole way. Like strong leaders do, he also communicated this to Steve. He said, “Steve, there is a chance you may not play at all in the Olympics. I just want you to know that ahead of time.”

Employees, or team members want clear communication. They may not appreciate it, but it is important.

There were 12 teams at the 1980 Winter Olympics with 20 players each. 240 players. Steve Janaszak was the only one there that did not play a second, but not once did he ever poison the waters. He never seethed or pouted. Instead he got up at 6 AM for extra practice with assistant coach Craig Patrick. He pushed Jim Craig to the max. He did whatever was needing, like timing shifts on the ice, and in what still gives me goosebumps, during intermissions in the locker room he would go up to players and ask if he could sharpen their skates.

Like Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.

Steve was always the first over the boards and on the ice when someone scored. There are scores of pictures of him out there, with his towel draped around his neck, giving the person that scored a big bear hug.

Captain Mike Eruzione said after they got their gold medals that no one was more important on that team than Janny (his nickname). Jim Craig, with the world’s media listening after the gold medal ceremony, publicly acknowledged Steve and thanked him in his first comments to the media.

Good things happen to people like Steve. One night in the Olympic Village several of the players were in the movie theater. They shifted the chairs around to their liking, and got scolded by a lady named Jackie Minichello, who was an interpreter for the International Olympic Committee. Steve and Jackie locked eyes and the sparks flew. He would later go down Main Street and find a Valentine present for her as Valentine’s Day was that week. Their first date was her in the stands during the historic 4-3 win over the Soviets.

They would marry in 1981 and have been happily married, with two children ever since.

After retiring from hockey, he went on to work as a bond salesman for an investment banking firm on the 89th floor of the South Tower in the World Trade Center until March 2001, leaving the company six months before 9/11. He says the company lost 67 people when the towers collapsed, including most of the people on the trading desk where he had worked.

Steve had a beautiful team spirit that can inspire us all whether we work in a company, teach or coach in a school, or lead a church.

He also had a sense of humor. After the team was flown on Air Force One to the White House on Monday February 25, 1980, everyone went their separate ways, which was jarring. Some went to the National Hockey league, some to the minor leagues, some into the work force and some back to college. Steve immediately went to play goalie for the minor league Baltimore Skipjacks.

During a road game where their opponent was having Cheap Beer Night a fan that did not realize Steve was on the Olympic team dumped an entire mug of beer on him as he walked to the locker room.

As it poured down into his jersey, all Steve could think was this: “A week ago I was in The White House eating a meal that I had ordered in advance from Air Force One, and now I’m drenched in beer in some run down hockey rink!”

Being the ultimate team player and being able to laugh at life’s challenges, two great qualities to have!


Charlie-Adams-e1378206959986-150x150Born in Oxford and educated at Ole Miss, Charlie Adams is a motivational speaker who specializes in sharing the fascinating back story of Lake Placid and the Miracle on Ice. His 90 minute to 2-hour presentation is filled with patriotism, the American dream, and the power of team. It is delivered to corporate, educational and church audiences. He can be reached at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
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