Who could have predicted? Some 41 years ago, Jack O’Callahan was headed to the Olympics

In the Charlestown Patriot newspaper some 41 years ago, on page 3 of the Feb. 14, 1980, edition, an easily missed article appeared about a Charlestown hockey player headed off to the Olympics.

The wonderful article written by former staffer Kim DePra talked about the career of Charlestown’s Jack O’Callahan, who was 23 and lived with his family on Concord Street. Little did anyone know that the young man from Concord Street was headed off to make the kind of sporting history that has rarely been repeated – a feat that was as much political as it was sporting triumph.

In the article, there was hope that the USA Hockey team would make it to the medal round, but perhaps not a lot of confidence that they could make it past the incredibly challenging Soviet Union (Russia) team.

“Though considered the underdog by some, the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team hopes to be ‘standing there’ listening to their National Anthem during the next week,” read the article. “But first they must face some tough competitors.”

O’Callahan had just graduated from Boston University in 1979, where he had a stellar career, and had previously attended Boston Latin School as a young man. The article indicates O’Callahan was suffering from a knee injury, but expected to play in the games that stretched from Feb. 12 to Feb. 24, 1980.

The article also quoted him talking in an interview about how great it was to hear the National Anthem while competing for the National Team in 1979 in Moscow.

“There’s just some kind of feeling when your flag is going up and you’re listening to the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and there’s 10,000 Russians in the stand and armed guards in each corner,” he said at the time.

The U.S. Hockey Team would eventually beat the Soviets in 1980 to advance to the gold medal game. The game against the Soviets has been named the greatest sporting event in American history time and again – and Charlestown’s O’Callahan was an indelible part of that effort. In Charlestown’s Emmons Horrigan O’Neil Rink, just next to the door still lies a photo of O’Callahan, signed, with his writing expressing, “I learned to play hockey in this rink!”

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