When most people think of the rink at Lake Placid, N.Y., the United States Olympic Hockey Team’s stunning gold-medal performance in the 1980 Olympic Winter Games quickly comes to mind.
The Miracle on Ice certainly pops into the head of hockey fan Anthony Vertullo. But he and fiancée Emily Meltzer will now share a different memory about the storied sheet of ice.
Last summer, Vertullo was preparing to play with his team, Koppy Kats, in the annual Lake Placid Adult Classic hosted by USA Hockey on Jan. 19-21.
Vertullo wanted to make it a little more special in his seventh year. He had the idea of proposing to his girlfriend of four years, Meltzer, in the rink.
“I wanted to propose on the 1980 rink, obviously because of the rich history,” Vertullo said. “I consider it to be the greatest sporting event upset of all time; It’s one of the greatest American moments. It’s one of the biggest underdog stories, if you look at our history.
“I felt like there could be no better place in the world to do it.”
Vertullo worked on specifics with team captain Mike Koppy and got their ideas cleared by USA Hockey Adult Hockey Coordinator Paul DeSandro. Vertullo wanted to make sure he didn’t do anything to disrespect the sacred rink.
Vertullo and Meltzer, who live in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, drove four-and-a-half hours to get to Lake Placid on the Friday morning before the tournament. Unbeknown to Meltzer, her family would be secretly joining her at the rink.
“I had roughly 21 members of her and my family all waiting for it to go down,” Vertullo said.
Said Meltzer: “We’ve been together for almost like four years now, so it’s always kind of in the back of your mind, but you never know when it could happen.”
Vertullo, who is one of the team’s goalies, set it up so the Koppy Kats would play on Friday night. That way he could get the proposal taken care of early on in the tournament. The Koppy Kats warmed up for their game and then the guys wanted team photos by the benches. That’s when Vertullo’s plan sprang into action.
He organized it so the wives and girlfriends of his teammates would have Meltzer take the photos.
“One of his friends skates over and says, ‘Let’s get a picture of the goalies,’” Meltzer said. “I’m taking pictures of the goalies and all of a sudden he comes forward and skates onto one knee.”
Vertullo did his best Jim Craig half butterfly and slid toward his girlfriend with the ring in his glove.
“I asked the question, and luckily for me she said, ‘Yes,’” Vertullo said.
Getting choked up, Meltzer turned around and saw her mom, dad, stepmom, sister, his mom and other family members looking on.
“That was the moment I just lost it,” Meltzer said. “I just started bawling my eyes out. It was nuts.”
The moment was even more special because of both families who were on hand.
“We’re both very family-orientated, so we’re really close with both of our families,” said the 28-year-old Meltzer. “I’m close with his family, so it just kind of made sense for everyone to be there.”
Meltzer’s initial thought when she saw the ring was shock.
“Oh my, this is happening,” Meltzer said. “And honestly I could not have asked or even dreamed of a more perfect way to do it. We both love hockey.”
Vertullo and the Koppy Kats played their game and then the families and friends all went out to a bar to celebrate.
“She’s very much my best friend, which makes it a no-brainer,” said Vertullo, 30. “It’s one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made, and I made it a long time ago. I just needed something like Lake Placid to put the perfect bow on it.”
It was fitting the proposal was hockey-related. On their first date nearly four years earlier, Vertullo and Meltzer were supposed to meet at a bar. However, Vertullo was contacted by a friend who had secured some ice time, and he was going to play hockey.
“I said, ‘You are more than welcome to come and watch and then afterwards I’ll take you wherever you want to go, but I’m going to play hockey.’ She’s like, ‘OK,’” Vertullo said. “I was like, ‘Wow. If she can deal with that so gracefully when it involves hockey, she very much might be a keeper.’”
She definitely was a keeper for the goalkeeper.
Even four weeks after the proposal, Meltzer was still in awe of how everything went down in Lake Placid.
“It was really just amazing,” Meltzer said. “That one word just kind of captures everything. It was really amazing. And special.”
The couple hasn’t set an official wedding date yet. They want to enjoy the engagement for a little while. However, they are looking at summer 2019.
So, Anthony, how do you top the proposal when it comes to the actual wedding?
“To be honest, I don’t know if I top this,” Vertullo said. “I think we’ll let it stand as an isolated moment: 1980 Lake Placid engagement. How would I top this other than asking Mike Eruzione to be in my groomsmen party?”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.