Take a behind the scenes look at the creation of the Miracle on Ice Halloween display. See Experience the Halloween Miracle on Ice Hockey Game for pictures of the final display.
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Planning the Annual Halloween Display
Planning for this year’s Halloween display required more research than in prior years because it was based on an actual event, the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic hockey game. To learn more about the game and its history, I watched a number of movies, documentaries and other videos, including:
- Miracle, the inspirational Disney movie. Miracle is the “true story of Herb Brooks, the player-turned-coach who led the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to victory over the seemingly invincible Soviet squad,” according to IMDb.
- Miracle on Ice, a 1981 movie with Karl Malden playing Herb Brooks.
- Do You Believe in Miracles? The Story of the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team , an HBO Sports documentary.
- Miracle on Ice Gold Medal Moment: 1980 Lake Placid (Team USA on YouTube),
- A replay of the actual 1980 Olympic hockey game
One other extremely useful source was the book “The Boys of Winter” by Wayne Coffey on Audible. It contained a play-by-play recap of the final minute of the game. My research efforts reminded me of a school project, but fun!
Making Olympic-Inspired Uniforms for the Halloween Display
In prior years, I purchased blank jerseys for my skeletons and added my own logos. Since I needed 10-12 uniforms for the Miracle on Ice display, I decided to sew my own. I’m not seamstress. Instead, I’m more of a sewing hobbyist with basic sewing skills and a willingness to learn.
Making the pattern
To my surprise, I couldn’t find a pattern for sewing a hockey jersey. My son fortunately had a supply of old hockey jersey and I commandeered one to make my own pattern, something I had never done before. The hockey mom side of me felt a bit guilty tearing apart the jersey with a seam ripper, but it was sacrificed for a good cause! After deconstructing the jersey down to its original pieces, I used them to create my own pattern.
The 1980 US and Soviet hockey teams wore red hockey shorts, something I did not have at home. I decided to sew red covers (aka, hockey shells) to go over the black hockey shorts the skeletons typically wore in my prior displays. I started with an easy pattern for kids’ pajama shorts and modified it to resemble an actual hockey uniform shell.
Buying the fabric
I purchased the fabric for my uniforms at JOANNs. When I headed to the store, my only goal was to find stretchy and economical fabric. I was in luck! I found sufficient yardage of red, white, and blue knit fabric. In addition, I found red and white nylon fabric that would work perfectly for the hockey shells. I was the odd duck at the JOANN cut counter that day. The other customers were purchasing cute Halloween and fall-themed fabrics and I was loading up on a ton of basic red, white and blue.
Sewing the uniforms
In order to make the uniforms I had to figure out how to sew stretchy fabric. An ideal way to sew knits is with a specialty sewing machine called a serger. I had purchased one on craigslist a few years ago, but never really learned how to use it. Fortunately, you can find out how to do anything on the internet. After some practice, I was able to thread and use the serger to make a hockey jersey. While my jersey was not suitable for a real hockey player, it was perfect for my Halloween skeletons.
Making hockey socks were way outside my skill set. In the interest of time, I ordered socks that resembled the Olympic uniform socks from HockeyMonkey.com. Maybe I’ll knit my own hockey socks next year. Just kidding; that will never happen!
Personalizing the jerseys
In addition to the serger, my other essential tool for making the Miracle on Ice Halloween display was my Cricut Maker. I received the Maker for my birthday this year and absolutely LOVE it. It’s so easy to use and has so many different applications. For this project, I used it to cut out all the letters, numbers, and symbols that I needed for the jerseys and shorts. My biggest challenge figuring out how to spell the the Soviet players’ names for the back of their jerseys, since they didn’t always match the rosters I found online. Gettyimages.com was instrumental, since the site had hundreds of pictures from the 1980 US/USSR Olympic hockey game.
I needed two different types of heat transfer vinyl (HTV) for this project. For the jerseys I used Siser EASYWEED STRETCH and for the nylon shorts I used Siser EASYWEED EXTRA. I purchased all the HTV from HeatPressNation.com. My heat press made easy work of affixing the vinyl to the fabric.
We have amassed quite a collection of old hockey gear over the years. Some came from my son as he outgrew his old gear. I obtained other pieces from sites like Nextdoor, Facebook Marketplace, and craigslist. I looked for inexpensive, old and/or broken items because I didn’t want to take equipment from someone who actually would use it for hockey.
To make the equipment resemble the gear used during the 1980 hockey game, I modified the helmets and sticks. With the help of red and blue spray paint, I fashioned the US players with blue helmets and the Soviet players with red helmets.
The players used wood hockey sticks at the 1980 Olympics. We had a few wood hockey sticks at home, and I tracked down the rest on craigslist. I sanded the finish off the old sticks and used vinyl to make them loosely resemble what the each of the players used during the actual game. Because I ran out of time towards the end, I covered the last few sticks with wood texture repair tape. This is something I should have done from the beginning since it was faster, and I liked how it looked too. However, I’m one of the rare folks who enjoys the sanding process.
Announcers Al Michaels and Ken Dryden
Sportscaster Al Michaels called the 1980 Olympic hockey game on ABC along with color commentator Ken Dryden, a former goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens. Al Michaels’ emotional call, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” was one of the reasons I created this Halloween display. Therefore, I absolutely had to include Al and Ken! I used ventriloquist dolls as the announcers because they had a spooky Halloween-vibe. For the record, I was in no means calling the announcers dummies!
My serger came in handy again to make little blue shirts for the dolls similar to the ones the sportscasters wore at the Olympics. I made a little Halloween Broadcasting Company booth for the announcers. My husband was kind enough to secure it above the garage, so it appeared as if the sportscasters were calling the hockey game from above.
The iconic quote “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” was prominently featured on our garage in removable vinyl. I included the quote because I wanted to share a positive message about believing in miracles in 2020. Also, I thought it would be a good way inform people about our display in case they were unfamiliar with the 1980 game. One man, who clearly remembered the game, told me that reading the quote on our garage gave him chills.
Coach Herb “Hellraiser” Brooks
Herb Brooks sported a tan sports coat and plaid pants when coaching the 1980 Miracle on Ice game. I was happy as a clam when I found similar clothes at a local second-hand store! In keeping with the Halloween theme, I decided to turn the coach into Pinhead, a character from the Clive Barker Hellraiser movies. To create the character, I painted a mannequin head with acrylic paints. Then I carved lines into the plastic with a wood burning tooI and drilled holes at the intersections of those lines. Finally, I had fun hammering nails into the holes in the mannequin head (please don’t analyze that revelation too much!).
Since this was a Halloween display, I also used monsters as the spectators. The Bride of Frankenstein, a couple werewolves, and Medusa rooted for team USA. Cheering on the Soviet team was a witch and Michael Meyers. Creating these characters was just plain fun. I experimented with acrylic paint, wigs, costumes, rubber snakes, hats and other accessories to transform mannequins into the monsters. My husband and I visited a local flea market to find red, white, and blue clothing. My husband also met someone who gave us a Makarov jersey when he learned of our Miracle on Ice display. We featured that jersey prominently on a Soviet fan.
Making the Scoreboard
One of the last pieces I made for the display was a scoreboard to commemorate the final score and Team USA’s victory. In the planning stage, I envisioned an actual clock that counted down the last minute of the game, but eventually decided to focus my limited time elsewhere. Instead, I made a lighted sign that resembled the actual one.
My scoreboard was made out of plywood, acrylic ceiling light panels, vinyl, and white LED string lights. The Cricut Maker was instrumental yet again in cutting out the vinyl lettering! The original scoreboard at Lake Placid featured red, green, and warm white lights. Instead of using different colored lights, I used gel filters to change the color of the light. In the evenings, the scoreboard elements were illuminated in their appropriate colors. I connected the lights to an Enbrighten Wi-Fi Outdoor Yard Stake, which allowed me to program them to turn on and off at specific times using an app on my iPhone.
Other 1980 Olympic Props
Roni the Raccoon was the mascot of the 1980 Winter Olympics. I felt like I won the lottery when I found a rabid looking raccoon skeleton on eBay (a plastic one, not a real one!). Since Coca-Cola was a sponsor of the Olympics, I decided to make a coke concession stand for my “ice rink” as well.
Setting up the Halloween Display
Setting up the display was the best part of the process. After working on the pieces in my spare time for over a month, it was rewarding to see everything come together. The set-up process began with my husband and son setting up the hockey boards around the front yard. I made those a few years ago for the original Halloween hockey display and have continued to reuse them. My husband set up the outdoor lights and painted the grass with temporary marking paint to make it look more like ice.
To display the skeletons, we mounted them to steel garden U-posts. An auger attachment for the drill made digging holes for the posts in the hard grass much easier. After dressing the skeletons in the hockey gear and uniforms, we brought them outside and attached them to the stakes using zip ties. The zip ties fit down into the U-shaped notches in the steel posts and helped to prevent the skeletons from falling down.
At the end of the Olympic hockey game, goalie Jim Craig jumped into the air in celebration. The one pose I wanted to capture with skeletons was this celebratory jump. Getting a plastic skeleton to appear to be jumping with bulky hockey pads and raising a relatively heavy stick took some trial and error, but I was pleased with how it turned out.
Favorable Community Response
Thanks to our Halloween display we meet more people in the neighborhood in the month of October than we do the rest of the year. We enjoy talking to people about the display and people are welcome to take pictures of the display. It’s also rewarding to hear their reactions. I overheard a mom read the Al Michaels’ quote to her young daughter. Another young family told us they had just watched the movie Miracle. Others have reminisced about the Olympic hockey game and shared their own hockey experiences. We are glad that our display brings joy to others and are grateful we were able to create this Halloween display.