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Legends of NYS Hockey: Pete Sears

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BY RANDY SCHULTZ—

Pete Sears remembers the 1960 Winter Olympics as though they had happened yesterday.

“I was a young boy growing up in Lake Placid, NY at the time,” recalled Sears. “The 1960 Winter Olympics were on TV when I was about 12 years old.

“It was the first time they had ever been televised. And I remember watching the US Men’s Olympic Hockey Team that year, winning the gold medal for the first time in their history.

“I remember Jack McCartan playing goal for the US Team. He did a great job playing goal for them that year.

“That really made an impact on me. It was from that point on that I decided that I would one day play on that same men’s Olympic Hockey Team and win a medal.”

Quite a dream for a young man just entering his teenage years. But one that would become a reality 12 years later.

Sears was born and raised in Lake Placid. Sears grew up in an Olympic atmosphere, considering the fact that Lake Placid was the site of the 1932 Winter Olympics (and later the 1980 Winter Olympics with the Miracle On Ice).

He became a goalie when he was about nine or ten. He played organized hockey for his high school team in Lake Placid. Besides Lake Placid, their high school league was made up of Potsdam, Canton and Messina, with Messina being the best hockey town of all.

Sears eventually moved south to Oswego, where he played college hockey at Oswego State.

“I was there for just two years before moving on to tryout for the 1968 US men’s Olympic Hockey Team,” remembered Sears, who was born Gordon Peter Sears. “That is where I met Murray Williamson, the men’s hockey coach.

“I wanted to see what the Olympic experience was like, especially the tryout portion. Murray told me at that point their goaltending was all set.

“But he wanted to know if I would like to play hockey in the US Hockey League. A week later I got a call from the Green Bay Bobcats and went there to play.

“But shortly after that I was drafted into the Army.”

Sears served two years (1967-69) in the Army, including one tour of duty in Vietnam.

“That may have been the biggest turning point in my life,” remarked Sears. “I really grew up at that point in time.”

Although he didn’t know how hockey would play into his life, Sears knew he still wanted to play the game.  That hockey road took Sears back to Oswego, where he continued his education and played for the college hockey team.

Following his graduation from Oswego in 1971, he headed to the tryout camp for the 1972 US Men’s Olympic Hockey Team. This time his efforts paid off and he made the team, but not as the starting goalie.

That job went to Mike Curran.

“Coach (Williamson) wanted to know if I was alright with that decision, which I was,” said Sears. “It was an honor for me to be on the team and do what I could to help the team win.”

The 1972 US Team that played in the Winter Olympics in Japan was made up of players like Mark Howe, Robbie Ftorek, Henry Boucha and Tim Sheehy, among others.

“We knew we were underdogs going in,” stated Sears. “But we managed to win some key games.

“I remember watching from the stands as the Russians beat the Czechs, which allowed us to win the Silver Medal. I think it was one of the few times, at that point in history, you would have found a team from the US rooting for the Russians”

Following his crowning achievement in the Olympics, Sears played two seasons of minor league hockey before taking his wife and family back to Oswego to settle down.

“I got a job as a (history) teacher (at Oswego High School) and did that for the next 33 years,” said Sears, now 70 and retired, but still living in Oswego part of the year as well as Florida part of the year. “That also gave me a chance to stay connected with hockey as a coach of the school’s hockey team.”

Sears was head coach at OHS from 1979 through 1998 and continued as an assistant until 2001. During his tenure Sears guided the Bucs to 10 league titles, five Section III titles, four regional championships, three trips to the NYS finals and nine New York State Section III Sportsmanship Awards.

Among his achievements Sears has won the Peter Rush Award, the John Mariucci Award and has been inducted into the New York State High School, Oswego High School, Oswego State Athletics and Oswego State Blueline Club Halls of Fame.

“I had a great hockey career as well as teaching career,” concluded Sears. “Every positive thing that’s happened to me in my life was either directly or indirectly because of the experience at Oswego State.

“I was very fortunate to make a decision to go there for college.

“To have won an Olympic silver medal is a great honor which I am very proud of. They were a great team that I hop will never be forgotten.”