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Miracle in Rossland

Updated: Feb 4

Here’s a gallery of photos I took on March 3, 2003 during filming in Rossland of the Kurt Russell movie Miracle. Columbia Avenue was transformed into 1980 Lake Placid, New York and Washington Street became Wabasha, Minnesota.

The latter must have been an inside joke: although US hockey coach Herb Brooks, whom Russell portrayed, was head coach of the University of Minnesota men’s hockey team in the 1970s, Wabasha (current population 2,500) had nothing to do with the Miracle on Ice, wherein the Americans stunned a heavily-favoured Russian squad in an Olympic semi-final match.

Wabasha was, however, the setting of the films Grumpy Old Men and Grumpier Old Men — though they weren’t actually filmed in Wabasha, and only one scene was even filmed nearby. Other Minnesota towns stood in for Wabasha. (Similarly, the 2000 movie MVP: Most Valuable Primate, about a hockey-playing chimp, is set in Nelson but was actually filmed in Squamish and Vancouver.)

The last reamining legacy of Miracle in Rossland is the mural on the side of the Bank of Montreal building, which I’m sure has fooled many into thinking it’s actually a phantom advertisement from the early 20th century. But I don’t know what the mural was modelled after — was there an actual Berchowitz and Epstein in Lake Placid, or was it another in-joke?

Ken Turner was largely responsible for that mural, which took five days to paint, and the other faux signs. “People are really going to remember this,” he correctly predicted in a National Post story. “They’re going to talk about it for a long time.”

Turner, who was on the city’s design review committee, favored keeping the mural once the filming was done. “My quandary is whether we should keep it as a Lake Placid sign or change it to a Rossland sign,” he said. “The reality is it’s from a movie.”

It remains a Lake Placid sign.

Storefronts were also made to look like they were from the 1980s (merchants received $250 each). “When they put the appliances in the appliance store it sort of became a museum and it attracted lots of people,” said set decorator Mary-Lou Storey.

It was truly astonishing how much effort went into the set decoration, considering that Rossland appears for only a few minutes in the finished film.

Updated on Feb. 4, 2024 to add comments from the National Post story.

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