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HOCKEY: ‘Miracle’ team member Verchota speaks at BSU

BEMIDJI — Just hours after the U.S. Olympic hockey team defeated the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic hockey tournament, BSU welcomed another Olympian on campus to discuss some memories of a slightly-more-famous Olympic hockey game.

Phil Verchota, a Bemidji resident who played on the famous 1980 “Miracle On Ice” team that upset the Russians, was invited to BSU to discuss his experience on the team and show the 2004 film “Miracle,” which was based on the events in Lake Placid.

The event was a part of the school’s Olympic events that are organized by a variety of student-organizations on campus.

“We decided to have a two-week span of events that were incorporated with the Winter Olympics,” said Kari Cooper, co-president of BSU student senate. “We have had viewing parties as well as other sponsored events.”

Verchota signed autographs and took pictures with students before speaking and answering questions prior to the showing of the movie.

He also discussed the fortunes of this year’s Olympic team — which will take on Canada in the semifinals Friday.

“They have a really really good team,” Verchota said of. the 2014 team “They are really unselfish. From the first to the fourth line, they are all contributing. I think they have a really good shot to win the whole thing.”

Along with many rule changes and different formats, the foundations of the rosters have changed since changed since 1980. Verchota and his teammates in 1980 were all amateurs, while every player on the 2014 team is in the NHL.

“I have to favor the older system, otherwise I would have never had the chance to play,” Verchota said. “At that time it was a stepping stone, given the timing, to play on the Olympic team after college.

“They are certainly the best players in the world,” he said of the 2014 team. “I don’t know if they are the best team though.”

As for the movie itself, Verchota still thinks it is a bit surreal seeing himself portrayed on the big screen, but he was pleased with the accuracy of the movie in conjunction to what he experienced in 1980.

“It is a little weird seeing yourself portrayed in a movie,” Verchota said. “We were a pretty humble group of players so it was definitely unique and a little odd at times.”

“They did a really good job with the movie,” Verchota said. “Instead of trying to turn actors into hockey players, they took actual hockey players and made them actors. That really helped with the authenticity.”

Although he attended the University of Minnesota, Verchota has kept an eye on the BSU men’s hockey team and thinks the combination of the Sanford Center and the new WCHA will bring good things to come for the Beavers.

“They are going through a little bit of a downturn,” Verchota said. “I love watching them play, though. The new facility is very nice and the new WCHA is bringing in a lot of good hockey teams. It just needs a little bit more familiarity from the hockey community here to see that there is great hockey all over the country and we are just going to see another group of good teams.”

Verchota says he makes at least one home game each year in a suite through the Deerwood Bank, where he works.

“It is awesome,” Cooper said of having Verchota come to the school. “I did not even know he was living in the Bemidji community until just a few weeks ago. We are really happy that he agreed to do it.”