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ECAC Hockey Championships returning to Lake Placid

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LAKE PLACID — The same arena where Mike Eruzione scored the goal that beat the Soviet Union in a hockey game in the 1980 Winter Olympics will once again be the home of the ECAC Hockey championship weekend.

Lake Placid’s Herb Brooks Arena, site of the Miracle on Ice, hosted the ECAC Hockey championship weekend from 1993-2002 and never stopped trying to get it back while the event spent the past decade taking place in Albany and Atlantic City, N.J.

There is one more year left in Atlantic City’s contract, but Lake Placid gets it back for a three-year term starting in 2014.

“Lake Placid has a special bond with ECAC Hockey,” conference commissioner Steve Hagwell said. “This is home for this league.”

There were some hard feelings in the spring of 2002 when the league moved the championship weekend to Albany despite making a verbal agreement to stay in Lake Placid.

But Lake Placid’s Olympic Regional Development Authority, which runs the sports events in town, maintained a positive relationship with the league and never quit trying to get the event back.

“We truly are excited,” said ORDA’s CEO and president, Ted Blazer. “We’re pleased that our proposal was accepted and that everybody feels this is the right time to come back to Lake Placid. We’re proud to be partners again with the ECAC. We never stopped hoping over the years. It’s nice to have them back.”

One of the first steps in bringing the event back was hosting an ECAC nonconference doubleheader the last two years, featuring rivalry games between Rensselaer and Union and Clarkson against St. Lawrence University.

Hagwell came to last year’s event and he said seeing the snow on the drive into town helped rekindle the feelings he had for the community back when the final weekend was in Lake Placid.

“It was great,” Hagwell said of last year’s event. “I expected a large crowd and I’m glad there was. There was a buzz in the air. Going between games, out in the community, it brought me back to the times we were here with our championship.”

Said Blazer, “I think it helped because people came back here and they realized what it was like to be in town again and be in that arena again and all the excitement it brought to the players, coaching staff and fans. It just got the ball rolling.”

Among the benefactors of the move will be north country fans. If Clarkson or SLU make this year’s final four in Atlantic City fans are looking at over a 900-mile drive, round trip. Lake Placid is 70 miles from Potsdam and a little more than 80 miles from Canton.

“If either, or both teams get here, we have a home run,” SLU athletic director Margie Strait said. “It’s a community that is host-ready and it’s the best atmosphere we can think of for a tournament. I think Canton, Potsdam and the north country in general just love to come to Lake Placid.”

Clarkson coach Casey Jones was an assistant with the Golden Knights during the early years of Lake Placid’s first run as host and brought his team here last December for the nonconference game with SLU.

“The student experience is fantastic,” Jones said. “We had good crowds here. There was an energy in the town. It’s what we’re looking for, I think in terms of coming in and controlling a town. It’s a real exciting time.”

One drawback to Lake Placid’s Herb Brooks Arena is it contains an international ice sheet, which is longer and wider than the standard 85-by-200-feet rink all 12 ECAC Hockey schools use for their home games.

“There’s always talk about that,” Jones said. “We play non-conference games and usually it’s against a team that plays (international ice) regularly. I don’t think it takes much account for how that game is dictated. For me it’s a very minor detail in terms of the overall experience here.”

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