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The 10 greatest Capital Region sporting achievements of the past 30 years

A note on how a couple of unusual votes were counted: One respondent voted for the Siena and UAlbany NCAA appearances as one item, so we split the points in half and applied them to each schoolís individual ranking. Also, a vote was cast for the Patroonsí ďearly years,Ē so we split those point among three more specific items pertaining to the team in that time period.

It was 29 years ago this month that one of the greatest sporting achievements of all time happened right here in our Adirondack backyard. The U.S. Olympic menís hockey team, never thought to be good enough to beat the mighty Soviet Union, won the gold medal at Lake Placid. The well-coached and well-conditioned U.S. boys surprised the Soviets with a gritty semifinal victory and completed the job by besting Finland for the gold. The unbelievable finish made instant darlings of the team, in particular their coach, Herb Brooks, and goalie, Jim Craig. The memory still resonates, and the achievement tops our list.

Three other very significant milestones tied for second place. Local boy Jeff Blatnick overcame cancer to earn a heartwarming Olympic gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling; the dominant RPI menís hockey team (including Adam Oates, who went on to a long and successful career in the NHL) won the NCAA Division 1 national title, but not before a thrilling overtime win over Minnesota-Duluth in the semifinal; and Siena menís basketball capped a remarkable era of the program with a trip to the NCAA tournamentóand a thrilling upset of Stanford in the first round, which, among other things, showed that supposedly minor basketball schools like Siena deserved to be there.

Who could forget Saratoga Springsí own Funny Cideís run at the Triple Crown, or the í80s glory days of heavyweight Mike Tyson, who trained at Cus DíAmatoís gym in Catskill and lived for a time in Albany? Hard to believe it was the legendary Phil Jackson who coached the Albany Patroons to their 1984 CBL title.Voters also gave the AHLís Red Wings and River Rats their due. And a few had fond memories of when up-and-coming Yankees got their seasoning right here in Colonie.

Survey respondents ranked up to 10 choices, and points were tallied as follows: 10 for 1st place, 9 for 2nd, and so on.

1. U.S. Menís hockey team wins gold medal at 1980 Lake Placid Olympics (40)

2. Tie: Jeff Blatnick 1984 Olympic gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling (35); RPI menís hockey 1985 national championship (35); Siena menís basketball 1989 NCAA tournament appearance and upset of Stanford (35)

5. Funny Cide wins the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2003 (32)

6. Mike Tysonís rise and heavyweight boxing title win in 1986 (30)

7. Phil Jackson coaches Albany Patroons to 1984 Continental Basketball League title (16)

8. Tie: Adirondack Red Wings win four Calder Cups (12); Albany River Rats win the 1995 Calder Cup (12)

10. Yankees double-A franchise comes to Heritage Park (10)

>> Back to Metroland 30th Anniversary


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