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March 2, 2009 - John Stack



First, kudos to the US sliding community! On Sunday, Steve Holcomb piloted USA1 – dubbed ‘Night Train’ to the 4 man bobsled world championship. It had been 50 years – back to the heyday of the likes of Dew Drop Morgan, since the US had won the 4 man world title. As a former skeleton slider, I headed up to Mt Van Hovenberg on Saturday with my son. We had no idea what really lie in store for us. We stood up top watching the start. The crowd cheered for John Napier, who just about grew up in the sled shed it seems. They cheered for Olympic medalist Todd Hays. Both finished in the top 11. But, the biggest cheer I have ever heard on the new track (it was built in 1999) was the 2nd run of Steve Holcomb. People have told me they heard the screams way down the track even. And Steve didn’t disappoint. There are many Americans who really are rabid about this sport, and he finally brought this trophy home for those long suffering fans. It was definitely an electric feeling being up there at the start. Bobby ‘Night Train’ Layne was the quarterback for the Detroit lions when they won their last NFL championship 50 years ago. He was traded after that season. Legend has it he cursed the Lions, saying ‘It’ll be another 50 years before the Lions win another championship’. Maybe the last pilot to win 4 man bob gold, Art Taylor in 1959 at  St Moritz had made the same comment back then.

            A couple weeks ago, Erin Hamlin of Remsen (just north of Utica, and just outside the Blue line) won the women’s world championship in luge. The German women had DOMINATED luge. The last time a German woman did not stand at the top of the podium after a World Cup luge race was 1997! That is a string of 99 straight wins by the Germans. There must have been something special in the ice this past month.

            The win by Holcomb also probably cemented further sponsorship for the US Bobsled team for the Vancouver Olympics next year. The sliding sports (as well as many other sports) have been hurt hard by the tough economy. One of the premier sponsors has been Home Depot. Home Depot would hire US Olympians to work their stores, pay them full time salaries and benefits, but give them ample time to train and race. But, on January 9th of this year, Home Depot chose to end their sponsorship program. This has left many athletes just a year out from the Olympics scrambling to be able to afford to race and train. Bobsled driver Bree Schaff, (and former skeleton slider) won the National Championship back in January, only to be told 3 days later she was no longer being sponsored by Home Depot. It’s a tough time for companies or individuals to be sponsoring an athlete, and its understandable. But for many of these athletes, they labor in obscurity (come on, who knew Bree Schaff before reading this?) for years and years, foregoing careers and often relationships for the hope of just one moment on the big stage of the Olympics.

            There was an article/letter in the P-R recently about a ‘pick-up’ hockey league in Essex County(?). It described how the league has a bunch of different types. Some seasoned players, some young, males and females. Many who hadn’t played in years. The writer described how exhilarating it was to get out and play. Here in Saranac Lake, we have a group like that every Sunday night at 6:30 at the Civic Center. I hadn’t played in 4 years or so myself until I started playing again. The games can be fast, and often we don’t have enough players, so you end up playing 10 minute shifts (takes quite a bit out of a 41 year old never-been like me). But, it is one thing I look forward to week after week. Brian Battastoni and his wife Kelly organize the play, and collect the 10 bucks a week (to pay for ice time). I get an incredible workout, and the people are great to play with. You’re pushing, shoving, fighting for the puck, racing up and down the ice and afterwards its all good. I had my best night ever last night, with 4 goals and an assist. My buddy the consultant for ChevaStack also fed me a great pass from behind the net on a 2 on 1 breakaway, that I dare say conjured up images of Wayne Gretzky steaming down the ice with Mark Messier on the wing.


            Oh yeah. I think it is ridiculous and hypocritical of Jimmy Tedisco to be painting his opponent Murphy a carpetbagger because he didn’t grow up here, yet Tedisco has no intention whatsoever of even moving into the 20th Congressional district for which he wants to be elected. What kind of election laws do we have that you don’t even have to live in the district of which you represent?






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