I am excited about the World University Games in 2023.
The 32nd edition of the Winter World University Games will be based in Lake Placid. The hockey tournament will be mostly played on three rinks in Canton and Potsdam. The women’s preliminary games will be played at Maxcy Hall at SUNY Potsdam and the men’s preliminaries will be played at Cheel Arena at Clarkson University and at Roos House at SUNY Canton. The semifinals and finals will be played at the Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid.
We are fortunate that we get to watch hockey at every level in our little corner of the world, but I am excited about the World University Games not because of the hockey, but because it will be a nostalgic thing for me.
In 1972, when the games were last held in Lake Placid, the preliminary games were being held in Plattsburgh at the newly constructed Ronald B. Stafford Field House.
I was in seventh grade and 13 years old. I was halfway through my first full year at Plattsburgh Junior High. To me, the World University Games and the Stafford Field House were akin to the Olympics and the Montreal Forum.
My dad got us tickets and going to the game was a big deal.
I was a little kid and the things I remember about the games, aside from the excitement of going to a big-deal thing with my dad and brother, are, frankly, stupid.
I remember that I was excited that one of the players for the U.S. team was named Charlie Brown. It must have been awesome to have the same name as a celebrity, I thought.
And, I remember getting my father red-faced frustrated about the Russian team’s uniforms.
This is a reconstructed conversation. I don’t remember it exactly, but this is how I imagine it years later.
Tommy: If they are the U.S.S.R why does it say C.C.C.P on their uniforms?
Col. Graser: (Naively thinking he was fielding an easy one) Because it’s a different language.
Tommy: But then, shouldn’t it be letters that are the same and one that is different on both?
Col. Graser: It is a different language, they have different words.
Tommy: But, it is still four words, shouldn’t the letters be kind of the same?
Col. Graser: It. Is. A. Different. Language.
Then there was a long pause while we both thought the other was incredibly stupid. Only one of us was.
While this was going on, my brother was watching the game intensely while simultaneously updating each player’s statistics in his head. He was the smart one. I was good at attracting bullies.
Every time I see C.C.C.P., like when I visit Dr. Gregory Healey’s office and look at his photo of Paul Henderson’s 1972 goal against the Russians in the Summit Series, I think about that exchange with my father (I just, at this moment, clocked the coincidence of all this happening in 1972).
We call them the World University Games, but you will also see them referred to as the FISU games and that is because the organization is the Federation Internationale du Sport Universitaire — French, which is (this is what my dad taught me) another language.
No matter, it will be exciting to have the games here and I bet a ton of local parents and their kids will create memories around the games that will last a lifetime.
Tom Graser is the editor of the St. Lawrence Plaindealer. While growing up he had to answer the phone like this, “Col. Graser’s residence, this is Thomas speaking.”
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