Rochester native has two amazing Olympic memories
By Troy Young
Along with the rest of his 1980 Team USA gold-winning hockey teammates, Rochester native Eric Strobel proudly climbed 117 steps to the top of the Olympic caldron.
In front of more than 50,000 spectators at Rice-Eccles Stadium on the University of Utah campus Friday, and millions around the world watching on television, Strobel followed the directions of Mike Eruzione. Just as he did 22 years ago in Lake Placid, N.Y., Strobel and his teammates helped light the torch that represents so many things to so many people.
With President Bush standing nearby, and the tattered flag that once flew atop the World Trade Towers present at the opening ceremonies, Strobel was part of this historic, symbolic and patriotic moment that forever will be etched in the nation's memory.
"I didn't realize the magnitude of the entire thing because I didn't have a chance to see the venue before," said Strobel, who flew to Salt Lake City Friday morning and missed the opening ceremony rehearsal. "We got to the venue a few hours before, and then we watched the opening ceremonies with everyone else at the stadium."
Strobel, who grew up playing hockey in Rochester, sat for almost 31⁄2; hours during the ceremony as the tension mounted. The identity of the people who would light the flame was kept secret.
"To watch it with your own eyes, it was a pretty amazing show," Strobel said. "The choreography... Everything was just amazing."
Then, toward the end of the night, Strobel and his teammates were quietly escorted out of the stands and behind the scenes. Once they reached the staging area, their excitement peaked.
"Then everybody got pumped up," he said. "We were down there about 20 minutes before we lit the torch. It got quiet in that room. Then they said it was time to go."
At that point, with Eruzione, their team captain, leading the way, they made the unforgettable climb to the caldron.
"Once you get up there and you look up there and you see the crowd ... It was a funny feeling. It was almost a surreal experience. The more you look back at it and see the coverage and what was happening ... You look back and you go, 'Geez, I was really up there.'
"It was a neat and emotional experience."