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Placer's 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics treasure unearthed in Midwest

Hockey puck could be part of growing Olympic display as 50th anniversary celebration in January moves forward
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The Holy Grail for the Squaw Valley Ski Museum Foundation may be coming in the form of a hockey puck. Fifty years ago, when Squaw Valley played host to the eighth Winter Olympics, the puck was scooped up by a spectator who had hurdled the Blyth Arena boards after the 1960 version of 1980’s Miracle on Ice. The gold-medal-winning U.S. national hockey team beat the highly-favored Soviet Union 3-2 and while the players were celebrating, the fan snagged the puck in the bedlam of the moment. It ended up in the hands of the man’s nephew in the Midwest and when he heard that the foundation was seeking donations for this January’s Olympic Heritage Celebration and the future Squaw Valley Olympic Museum, he placed a call to California. While Blyth Arena is long gone, a prized puck still exists from an epic hockey matchup and could end up on display in Placer County. Bill Clark, a foundation member and executive director of the Auburn Ski Club, said negotiations for the puck are ongoing, with the strong possibility that it will be either loaned or donated for showing in January. Clark said the drive to find Squaw Valley Olympic relics is really a race against time, with the stories behind many objects being lost as they’re stored forgotten in garages and attics. The mission of the foundation is to collect, preserve and exhibit the legacy of the 1960 Winter Olympics and the West’s ski heritage before it is gone. “Generations are changing and sometimes families don’t want artifacts,” Clark said. “We’re getting a response, with everything from flags to jackets to 8 mm film turning up.” Auburn’s Bob Herdal learned about the quest for artifacts recently and immediately went to his garage to unearth equipment he made by hand to mark cross-country skis during Olympic competition in 1960. Skiers had to finish with the same skis they started with so Herdal created cut brass Olympic stencils. Before each race, skis were marked with a different color. When the games ended, Herdal put the stencils in a box along with the list of competitors from the competition. Herdal, 85, said he’s looking forward to seeing a display that would include some of his prized Olympic possessions. “They came from all over the world to compete,” Herdal said. “At that time, it wasn’t as large and everybody knew everybody.” The Olympic Heritage Celebration will be held in Olympic Valley from January 8 to 17 – earlier than the 2010 Olympics to not clash with schedules of invited guests. The public is invited to participate in more than 25 events, including reenactments and interpretive tours of original venues and courses. There will be a temporary Museum of Olympic History in Squaw Valley open free to the public. The heritage events will culminate Jan. 17, when returning 1960 and other Olympians will gather for the Olympian Gala at the Resort at Squaw Creek. Clark said that the coach of the gold medal-winning hockey team, nonagenarian Jack Riley, is among the people penciled in to take part. Eighteen Olympic athletes are scheduled to attend, so far. Tickets and more information can be found at squawvalley1960celebration.com. To donate artifacts, provide a tip for locating artifacts and more information, go to squawvalleymuseum.org or e-mail SVOmuseum@gmail.com.