Herb Brooks was pacing. Slowly, softly, with care but unease. On a frigid Minneapolis morning, he was alone in a hotel banquet hall. Round tables and chairs lined the room. Caterers prepared a feast. A celebration neared. And yet Brooks wore distress on his taut Minnesotan face.

Because before long, the empty hall would fill. U.S. hockey officials would file in. Local business leaders would follow. And Brooks, the head coach, would present to them the 20 amateurs he’d be taking to Lake Placid for the 1980 Olympics. The 20 who for months had skated together until their quads shook and their glutes burned. Who’d traveled the world and bled together. Who’d downed beers and suffered together, all in their quest to make the team. 

Soon, they’d lock up their apartments, pile into cars and head to the banquet hall for their sendoff. Then they’d board a plane to begin final preparations for the Olympics. They buzzed with excitement. 

The problem for Brooks: There weren’t 20 of them. Hours before the announcement, there were 22.

Back at the apartment Mike Eruzione shared with Ralph Cox, the phone rang.

Cox and Eruzione were both Massachusetts guys. So were Jack O’Callahan, Jack Hughes and Dave Silk. The five had gathered together, as they often did during those unforgettable months, to carpool to the luncheon.

Eruzione picked up the phone. He handed it to Cox. “It’s for you,” he said. And the Boston boys went silent.

Cox pressed the phone to his ear. “Yeah. Yeah. Uh huh,” he muttered. “Yeah. Yeah. OK.”

Soon after he hung up, the phone rang again. This time, Eruzione handed it to Hughes. 

Pretty soon, Hughes and Cox were on their way to the hotel, where Brooks paced. When Cox entered the room, Brooks held up a finger. “Just give me a minute,” was Cox’s interpretation. “And I could just see how upset he was.”