Huddersfield student Tim Lyons is relishing the chance to visit the scene of arguably the most famous ice hockey match ever played when he competes at the 2023 Winter World University Games as part of the British squad.
The Universiade will take place in Lake Placid, which hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics and witnessed the giant-killing upset of a young amateur American team defeating the all-conquering USSR side before going on to win the gold medal.
Tim is a netminder for the GB side that will take on the USA in their opening match, and he is thrilled to get the chance to visit the site of the event that entered sporting folklore and became known as ‘The Miracle on Ice’.
“It is just going to be incredible. We may not get to the medal round to play on that ice, but to play against other nations in the place that is renowned for The Miracle on Ice is amazing for me,” says Tim, currently studying for his PGCE and teaching at a primary school in Huddersfield.
“Thankfully, the opening ceremony is in the Herb Brooks Arena where ‘the miracle’ occurred so I will get to walk around where it happened, which for an ice hockey fan like me is incredible. College kids beat the professional USSR ice hockey team, having turned down large sums to play in the NHL so to actually go there is going to be mesmerising.”
Tim’s journey to the 2023 games in upstate New York, not far from the border with Canada, has some of the against-the-odds elements of the 1980 Olympic shock.
A chance trip to an ice rink in Grimsby when he was seven started Tim’s love affair with the sport, which he says does not get anywhere near the publicity that it deserves, all the way to him now playing for Hull Seahawks in the National Ice Hockey League.
“I fell in love with being out on the ice, how it felt on my feet, how difficult it can be but also how graceful it can be. I was invited to play with the ice hockey team just two weeks after that first visit and I fell in love with the sport, its speed and the camaraderie. It is completely different to other sports, it is tough and I badly injured my knee a few years ago but I love it.”
Tim and his team mates have had to raise around £2,500 each in order to go to Lake Placid, in stark contrast to their opponents from the USA and Kazhakstan. Many of those players are already professionals who have gone back to college to be eligible for the Universiade, whereas after a mid-December training session the British squad will not see each other until they fly to the States in early January.
The University have helped with Tim’s funding, and the British Universities and College Sport (BUCS) have ensured that the squad of 22 will be supported by coaches, physios and an equipment manager who will look after the mountain of kit required by an ice hockey team.
“I could not ask for anything more from the University, they have been utterly amazing,” Tim enthuses. “Sid Fletcher, the Sports and Participation Manager, made sure that I had access to the gym, a personal fitness programme and sports physiotherapy, he was amazing in his help with the funding and I cannot thank him enough.
“The help from BUCS has been great too, and to have an equipment manager is an absolute Godsend.”
The Games start on 12 January, with Tim, who follows the Ottawa Senators in the NHL, already relishing the chance to play at the venue of two Winter Olympics.
“It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity, I am going to enjoy every single minute of it and not just the ice hockey but the whole experience of being in Lake Placid. It will be buzzing.”