Sports attorney Andrew Conway set out to produce a book about the 1980 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team’s Miracle on Ice, but pulling it together the way he wanted borders on the miraculous, unless you know his secret.
The power of asking, for Conway, is as good as gold. He learned this lesson selling brushes door-to-door on a straight commission to help put him through college and it’s a tool he continues to make use of in representing professional athletes today.
The 1980 squad, made up of college kids — not professionals, pulled off what many consider the biggest upset in sports history, defeating a Soviet superstar-laden team that had annihilated the American team a week prior to their matchup in Lake Placid and seemed a sure thing to win the gold.
The Russians had just invaded Afghanistan — tensions were high and President Jimmy Carter’s political career was running low — and the morale of his fellow Americans was sinking along with it.
So with this backdrop, there sat Conway, a second-year law student, watching the unthinkable unfold with a friend at Thirsty’s bar in Pittsford.
“That was such a special time and such a special moment in history. Americans just needed something to give ‘em a boost and a sense of pride —this was it,” Conway said. “It’s one of those things you never forget. It still feels like something special to me.”
And that’s why his book, “Gold: A Celebration of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team,” had to be special — the book won an Independent Book Publishers golf medal.
The price tag — $3,000 — provides a clue that this is no run-of-the-mill coffee-table book.
His cousin, Steven Albahari, an accomplished photographer, owns 21st Editions Press, which publishes fine arts photography books. With his passion for photography and the arts, and Conway’s passion for sports, they figured the combination should produce a winner.
Only 100 copies of the book were published, and he wanted it to be like a yearbook so it would be as personal as possible for the players. Each is enclosed in a clam-shell case with a dark blue fabric cover that resembles the American flag and 22-carat gold leaf lettering.
Former action movie star and muscleman Arnold Schwarzenegger could break a sweat just from lifting it, but it’s what’s on the inside that recaptures the magic of that electric night.
Using his contacts and the timeless art of cold calling, Conway was able to gather collections of photos of the players in action. Many of the images of the game itself proved iconic, but finding photos of early-round games proved to be no easy task — photographers just weren’t assigned.
“Nobody expected these guys to get anywhere,” Conway said.
In addition to obtaining the licensing for 17 high-quality images, Conway was able to obtain short written reflections on what the experience meant to each player. Each player also signed copies of the book.
Conway convinced famed announcer Al Michaels — whose signature call, “Do you believe in miracles?” elevated him to the heights of the sports broadcasting profession — to write the forward of the book. Most impressively, he was able to convince Carter to write the afterward, despite the crazy look he got from Albahari when Conway presented the idea to his cousin.
Conway’s sales experience as well as a stint as a stockbroker shortly after law school accounted for more than peanuts when it came to approaching the former president with the request.
“I learned really quickly that if you don’t ask, you’re not going to even get a chance for a yes,” Conway said. “You make cold calls, you can’t be afraid to talk to people. You ask them, and someday they might surprise you. The worse thing they can say is ‘no’ and you’re no worse off.”
An avid golfer these days who once caddied for PGA legend Arnold Palmer, Conway always loved sports as a kid, particularly golf and baseball. Combining sports and law was a natural fit. Much of his job entails getting endorsements for his clients, and drawing up the legal documents.
“You might as well combine your passion with your profession,” Conway said. “Life is too short and you’d be miserable doing something that you don’t enjoy.”
He works on his own by design. An early job cleaning toilets made that career goal easy.
And his experience selling brushes not only taught him the power of asking, but also proved to him he had the ability to earn the money he needed on his own terms and the freedom to pursue his other interests, including collecting loads of golf, hockey, baseball and music memorabilia.
And as a job, it’s enabled him to tackle projects like this book.
“I’m lucky I’ve been able to do a great deal of very exciting things, things that were very special,” Conway said. “It doesn’t necessarily equate to riches, at least financially. But in other areas it’s a lot of riches. The money goes, but this stuff stays.”
Three copies of the limited edition “Gold: A Celebration of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team” are still available. For information, email Andrew Conway at [email protected]