(This story originally appeared on www.bostonherald.com)
By Gayle Fee & Laura Raposa
A gold medal from the 1980 Winter Olympics “Miracle On Ice” team is going on the block complete with an emotional letter from the hockey player who was forced to sell it when he fell on hard times.
Mark Wells, a star forward in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association when he helped the amateur U.S. Men’s Hockey Team upset the Soviets, then considered the best in the world, sold the medal a few years ago after becoming bed-ridden with a rare genetic disease of his spinal cord.
“The gold medal symbolizes my personal accomplishments and our team’s accomplishments being reached,” wrote Wells. “As one of only 20 players to receive this gold medal, it has held a special place in my heart since February of 1980.
“When I decided recently to offer it out . . . I also decided until the day I give it up, it will be worn,” Wells said. “Therefore, I have slept with this medal for the past two weeks now in my home . . . I hope you will cherish this medal as I have.”
Wells did not return the Track’s calls. His medal – the only one from the Miracle team to ever hit the resale market – is expected to go for more than $100,000 according to Phil Castinetti of SportsWorld in Saugus who is handling the sale.
“I’m thinking it will bring in six figures – probably around $125,000,” Castinetti told the Track. “It’s the only one that’s ever surfaced, and there’s only 20 of them.”
Wells, who played minor-league hockey until retiring in 1982, worked as a restaurant manager in Michigan but had to quit in his early 40s because of back problems.
The illness left him bed-ridden for years but he managed to play in the 2002 “Miracle on Ice” reunion game – against doctor’s orders – where he played one shift and recorded a shot on goal.
After Wells sold the medal, it was purchased by a Connecticut collector who has turned it over to Castinetti to see what he can get for it.
BTW, this year marks the 30th anniversary of Team USA’s victory over the big bad Soviets and their subsequent win over Finland to grab the gold at Lake Placid. Hence, the sale.
Jack O’Callahan, the Boston University grad who played on the historic, Herb Brooks-coached hockey squad along with a number of other players from Boston, said he’s never given a thought to giving up his own.
“I value it, it’s important to me and my family, and it’s a pretty important piece of American history based on what happened on that rink 30 years ago,” O’Callahan told the Track. “But I guess, you never know and you should never take anything for granted.”
O’Callahan, who played with the Chicago Blackhawks and New Jersey Devils before retiring in 1989, now runs Beanpot Financial outside of Chicago. But don’t expect him to put a price on his piece of Olympic history.
“How can you? There were only 20 medals given out to the team,” he said. “It’s not like collecting Faberge eggs or Picassos .”
Nope, Miracles are rare things . . .
MORE RESOURCES FOR SPORTS COLLECTORS
- Get current market values for 400,000+ baseball cards issued between ’81 & ’09
- Get the Ultimate Yankee package
- Interact with other sports collectors in Tuff Stuff’s online forum
- Sign up for your FREE email newsletter from Tuff Stuff
- Read the latest 7th Inning Stretch Blog from Tuff Stuff Editor Scott Fragale