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Mike Eruzione: The Making of a Miracle

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
September 20, 2023 3:01 am

Mike Eruzione: The Making of a Miracle

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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September 20, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Mike Eruzione—the captain of the 1980 U.S Men’s Olympic "Miracle on Ice" Hockey Team—recounts the unlikely circumstances that led to his amazing career on ice, the legendary upset against the Soviets, his game-winning goal, and winning the gold medal. 

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And it's one that's close to his heart. He grew up in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and hockey is more than a pastime to folks living in that part of the country. It is the greatest American underdog sports story ever told. How a team of college kids and unsigned amateurs under the tutelage of legendary coach and legendary taskmaster Herb Brooks beat the elite Soviet hockey team on their way to winning the gold medal at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. Mike Eruzione served as the captain.

The highlight of the games for Mike was scoring the game-winning goal against the Soviet Union, the one you just heard. Here's Mike Eruzione with his story. I grew up in a little town on the north shore of Boston called Winthrop, Mass. I still live in that town.

Actually live two houses away from the house I grew up in. And when I was in high school, I actually played football, hockey and baseball. Baseball was my love. I probably played more baseball than any sport. And football was my passion in high school.

Hockey was something you just did in the wintertime. When I got out of high school, I was not recruited by any colleges. And I ended up going to a prep school year for one year in a school in Maine called Berwick Academy, with the hopes, actually, of playing at the University of New Hampshire. And I wanted to play all three sports in college. But the hockey coach didn't think I was a Division I hockey player. And kind of thought that UNH was going to accept me.

I had all my eggs in one basket. And as it turned out, I basically had no schools to go to. Well, my intention then was to go to Merrimack College. They offered me a hockey scholarship.

Merrimack was a Division II school at the time. Well, that summer before entering my freshman year, I didn't play hockey in the summertime. I played baseball and ended up getting a phone call from a friend of mine telling me that they needed some guys to play in a summer league game because a bunch of the guys went to the Cape for the weekend.

And if I was interested in playing. So, of course, I said yes, and I went and played in the game. And as it turned out, the guy refereeing the game was a guy named Jack Parker.

Jack Parker was the assistant coach at Boston University. And he came over to me after the game and asked me where I was going to school. And I told him I was going to Merrimack College.

And then he proceeded to tell me that they had a kid from Canada that decided not to come. And they had a scholarship available. Would I be interested in playing? They had a scholarship available. Would I be interested in going to Boston University?

And you've got to imagine my surprise. Boston University was coming off back-to-back national championships and considered one of the best teams in college hockey. Well, I told him I would accept the scholarship because I felt I could play at Boston University given the right opportunity.

So I arrived on campus at Boston University. Unfortunately, the head coach didn't know anything about me. And early on in the beginning of the season, I was basically playing on the fourth line.

And we'd only played a couple of games, but I wasn't playing that much. Well, as it turned out, at one point just before Christmas, Leon Abbott, the head coach, got fired. And Jack Parker became the head coach.

So Jack Parker becomes the head coach. And I go from centering the fourth line to playing left wing on the second line. And was fortunate and led the team in gold scored my freshman year.

So I graduate from Boston University. And at that point, thought I could play in the National Hockey League and went to camp with the New York Rangers. The New York Rangers had my rights. I went to camp with the Rangers, had a pretty good camp. But John Ferguson, the general manager, talked to my advisor and told them that they weren't going to sign any new players.

They had enough players under contract. And they sent me to Toledo, Ohio, and I went to Toledo, Ohio, and played as an amateur. I was not under an NHL contract. I was paid every two weeks by the Toledo gold diggers in the International League. I actually ended up making, I think, my first year, 3,500 bucks.

Not a lot of money. Playing 80 games. But it was a start. Well, I had a very good year in Toledo. I finished second in our team in scoring. And was voted the Outstanding Born American. All set and ready to sign with the New York Rangers. Well, John Ferguson, who was the general manager, he ended up getting fired. And Fred Sherrow now became the general manager of the New York Rangers. And Fred Sherrow told my agent that they weren't signing any of John Ferguson's players and Mike was free to do what he wanted to do. Well, I thought, why don't I go back to Toledo? Play as an amateur and have an opportunity to try out for the 80 Olympic team.

It's funny. If John Ferguson never got fired, I probably would have signed with the New York Rangers. Don't know where my NHL career would have gone, but clearly, I would not have been eligible to play on the Olympic team. Well, with that in mind, I go back to Toledo. I was fortunate that next year they gave me a little more money to play.

Still nowhere near what you could make of it. Still nowhere near what you could make playing in the NHL. But I went back there with the intention of the next year trying out for the Olympic team. And I got invited to the Olympic festival. Ended up playing on the Great Lakes team.

We ended up winning the gold medal at the Olympic festival. And I was fortunate to be elected captain of my team. Well, from the Olympic festival, I was selected by Herb as one of 26 players to make the 80 Olympic team. But only 20 were going to go to Lake Placid.

Well, fortunately for me, I was one of 20. I also had the honor of being elected captain of that team. Although I've said many times, we had a team of captains, Mark Johnson, Jack O'Callaghan, Bobby Souter, Billy Baker, Kenny Morrow, Mark Wells, Mark Pavlich, John Harrington. These guys were all captains of their colleges, our high school teams, as was Mike Ramsey, Neil Bronten, Eric Strobel, Steve Kristof, Phil Vercotta.

Great leaders, great players, great people. Well, our team traveled and trained for six months leading up to the Olympic games in Lake Placid, where we were part of something that was unique, something that nobody in the world thought we could accomplish going to Lake Placid and winning an Olympic gold medal. Well, after the Olympic games, once we saw and realized what this moment was, I retired from hockey and decided I was going to maybe get into coaching and then found out how big this moment was and kind of gave me a new look on life. And a lot of different opportunities in my life, I ended up being able to become a broadcaster working Olympic games as a commentator. Having been a commentator with the Olympic games, I was also able to do the New York Rangers, the New Jersey Devils, and eventually even college hockey. Well, I got out of the broadcasting business when my kids started to get a little older. I have three children, a daughter, Leanne, a son, Michael, and a son, Paul.

Since then, the two of them, Michael and Leanne, have been married and have now beautiful five grandchildren, four boys and a little girl. So what started out in my high school days, living in the same town that I live in now, the opportunity to be in the Olympic team, the movie that came out called Miracle, the visibility that our team has received over the years, led me to what, which is a book that I wrote along with a gentleman by the name of Neil Baudette. And the book is The Making of a Miracle, the untold story of Olympic captain, Mike Eruzione.

I wrote the book for one reason and one reason only. I want my grandkids to know there is more to my life than two weeks in Lake Placid. So our journey as a team, which started in 1980, since our victory over Finland. And it's kind of funny for me because today people still think we only played one game and they forget about the Finland game. They just think we beat the Soviets and that was it. Our team in 1980 touched a lot of lives for a lot of different reasons.

For us, it was an opportunity to represent our country, compete in the Olympic games with the hope and dreams of winning the tournament. And as it turned out, we did. So rather than get into my whole life talking to you here, I thought I'd give you just a little glimpse of some of the things that have happened to me in my life. Thank you. And the humility, you can hear it in his voice.

Guy just doesn't really want to talk about it. In the age of selfies and endless self-promotion, that is a rare thing. And by the way, that he was captain on a team of captains tells you everything about the guy's character. And lucky Boston University, having a guy like this teaching and leading other men and women.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-03 09:29:56 / 2023-10-03 09:35:58 / 6

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