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Mortensen Saw 'Miracle on Ice' Firsthand

When upstart American hockey players beat the mighty Soviet team at the 1980 Winter Olympics, there was a future star in the stands — Viggo Mortensen (search).

"I was on winter break from college, and I volunteered to be a translator for the Scandinavian teams," the actor told The Orange County Register in Sunday's editions. "I only did it to get free hockey tickets."

Mortensen said he saw the gold-medal game between the Americans and the team from Finland, but it was the previous game — the "Miracle on Ice" game — that is burned into his memory.

"I am not a nationalistic person by nature, but you had to get caught up in what was going on in that arena," he said. "The excitement was amazing. You couldn't believe it was happening, but it was happening, and I feel so honored to have been there."

Mortensen, fresh off his role in "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," is currently starring in "Hidalgo," a 19th-century adventure film set in the Arabian desert.