'Miracle on Ice' turns 40: Fans thank Mike Eruzione at Book Revue signing
By Bob Doda, News 12 Digital
“If I sometimes get a little down, I just pop that tape in – and the best thing about it, every time I shoot, the puck goes in,” Mike Eruzione once told Al Michaels, who wrote the foreword to his new book.
And that goal has lifted the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” Team USA captain to a place he never dreamed was possible.
Eruzione appeared at Book Revue in Huntington on Jan. 28 to sign copies of “The Making of a Miracle: The Untold Story of the Captain of the 1980 Gold Medal-Winning U.S. Olympic Hockey Team.”
The then 25-year-old Boston native scored the game-winning goal against the Soviets in the David vs. Goliath matchup in the semi-finals in Lake Placid, New York. It’s considered the greatest underdog sports story of all-time.
“It’s just been in an incredible fact to think that 40 years later – it’s not on the tip of people’s tongues – but when they talk about great moments in sports, ours always seems to be No. 1,” he told News 12.
It’s well-deserved, too. Months earlier, the “Red Army” of the Soviet Union had crushed the Americans at Madison Square Garden, 10-3. And as Lawrie Mifflin, of the Daily News, wrote – it “could have been higher if the Soviets had exerted themselves a bit.”
“The swiftness, precision and ruthlessness of the Soviet hockey machine's annihilation of the U.S. Olympic team at the Garden Saturday afternoon came as no surprise, either,” according to Mifflin’s accounting of the game.
When the Olympics came around in Upstate New York, the Americans had the youngest team in the tournament. According to Eruzione, “Nobody in the world thought we could win a medal, let alone win the whole tournament. I think it makes it that much more special.”
Heading into the third period, the U.S. was down 3-2. Mark Johnson tied it up off a nice feed through the crease. Then, Eruzione found himself with some time to settle the puck in the slot, used a Soviet defenseman as a screen, and fired it under the netminder’s pads.
The score was 4-3 with exactly 10 minutes left on the clock. The longest 10 minutes for the players, for the fans, for the nation.
“I can’t even describe to you the intensity,” says Ken Zitter, an Eruzione fan at Book Revue. “You just counted down every second. You were just waiting.”
And when the clock read zeros and the “Miracle on Ice” became a thing, the victory took on a special meaning for everyone who was watching.
“The victory meant a lot not only to the team, not only the fans, but to the country,” said Bill Donahue, of Lindenhurst. “I think the country needed something like this in the state it was in with the energy crisis and Russia invading Afghanistan. The victory really meant a lot to the American people.”
Mike Eruzione on the film "Miracle"
Days later, they upset Finland with more third period magic and gold medals were placed around their necks. During the medal ceremony, Eruzione stood alone while the Star-Spangled Banner played – but was soon joined on the small podium by his teammates.
“Nobody told me what to do after,” Eruzione told News 12. “My teammates were looking at me, and I was looking at them and they starting to walk toward me…So I called them all up and all 20 of us fit. I don’t know if we would fit today, but we fit then.”
Forty-years later, co-author Neal Boudette, a Boston University graduate like Eruzione, reached out to the team captain about a possible book to catalog the 1980 team’s improbable journey toward gold. It was originally supposed to come together as a collaborative “where are they now” project – but after players didn’t express much interest, Boudette and Eruzione set out to tell a story that went beyond the sheet of ice.
“I wrote the book with Neil for one reason and for one reason only. I want my grandkids to know that papa – his life wasn’t just two weeks in Lake Placid. I want them to understand there was more to me and my accomplishments as an athlete and as a person that they should know about,” said Eruzione. “It’s an interesting story of how I started and how I finished.”
Mike Eruizone on his leadership style
The line to meet Eruzione stretched out the door at Book Revue. Fans wore their USA jerseys, brought posters for the captain to sign and said they wanted to thank him for a great memory they will always have.
“It was a time when the country needed something to rally around,” said Robert Schildkraut. “I think the country needs it now, too.”
In our discussion, Eruzione touched upon amateur vs. pros in the Olympics, his thoughts on the “Miracle” movie and being a “captain amongst captains” on the most storied team in American history.
Mike Eruzione: NHL players or amateurs in the Olympics?