The town was filled with people who had come to see leaves that had not yet changed. The shops were filled with souvenirs that will become memorabilia and some from 1980 that already have.

But the Olympic arena was empty. A boy on the Zamboni circled the ice, obliterating traces of memory. The sound was heavy metal, not "U.S.A., U.S.A."

At 1 p.m., the boys who now wear U.S.A. on their chests--the 1984 Olympic ice hockey team--arrived for their exhibition game against the New York Rangers, against Herb Brooks, who coached the magic four years ago, against Robbie McClanahan, Dave Silk and Bill Baker, who were members of that magical 1980 Olympic championship team.

John Harrington and Phil Verchota, members of both Olympic teams, are the conduits to the miracle. Harrington had not been back to Lake Placid since their heroics there. "When you see that big white rink, you get excited," he said. "You try to low-key it, but you're excited. I walked by the locker room and I said, 'I'm not going to go in and look,' but of course, you do. I went in and stood on the bench."

There were Rangers in locker room No. 5 now, including Silk, who came back to fight for his future, not to fight with his past. He had been back before. He wondered if there would be any tingles left. "When I came in there were," he said. "I hope there always will be."

Brooks, who is firmly committed to the here and now, just as he was then, was not interested in talking about his feelings. He didn't want to come to the game, didn't want to be introduced, didn't want to overshadow their future or his present.

He was not behind the bench but watching from the press box, as he usually does during exhibition games. He was gratified when those who stopped and asked for autographs asked about the Rangers, not the magic. "If 1980 left a legacy of inspiration, a display of unique character for athletes, that's a tremendous legacy," he said. "But right now, I work for the New York Rangers. I have to give those people everything I have. That's my inspiration now."

Still, when the starting lineups were introduced, someone had bowed to sentiment. The Rangers wore their blue road uniforms and "the black hats," Silk said.

U.S.A. wore white. "They should be the home team," said Craig Patrick, an assistant coach then, the Rangers' general manager now.

They played as if they owned the joint. Perhaps it was because they were "fired up," as Harrington was, "about playing Herb and being back in Lake Placid."

The 1984 U.S. Olympic team swarmed over the memories, scoring three goals in the first period, never letting the Rangers into the game, never letting the crowd into the game. When the inevitable cheer began with 1:52 remaining and the U.S.A. on the verge of a 7-3 victory, it was a pro forma imitation of the original.

In the hallway, outside the dressing room where thousands of telegrams covered the walls four years ago, Verchota smiled and said, "I don't get goose-pimply. I don't get caught up in the big smoke of deja vu and all that. Hockey is not like that. If that was the case, we would have gone out there and gotten the crap kicked out of us."

For a moment, before the Rangers had to run for their chartered flight and the Olympians had to run for a team meal, he was joined by the other four members of the 1980 team. Who knew when they had been together last or would be together again? They traded pleasantries and talked about telephone calls that may or may not be made.

As they headed off in different directions, Silk looked over his shoulder and said, "Go for it."