Catching up with 'Miracle on Ice' icon Mike Eruzione
In 1980, Mike Eruzione scored what was probably the biggest goal in American hockey history.
In the famous “Miracle on Ice” game at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics, Eruzione was the American captain and scored the goal that broke a 3-3 tie midway through the third period to help deliver what has since been voted on as “The Top Sports Moment Of The 20th Century”.
NBCOlympics.com recently caught up with Eruzione to get his opinions on the upcoming Sochi Olympics.
NBCOlympics.com: First off, what are you up to these days?
Eruzione: At BU (Boston University), my title is Director of Special Outreach. I’ve been working at the school for going on 20 years.
The job is meeting with recruits, being on campus and doing alumni events around the country. I also may get a call from a professor to go in and speak with a class, or with regular students who are doing a story on the Olympics. Or with someone who just wants to come into my office and meet me.
I have a pretty busy schedule.
NBCOlympics.com: You went to school at BU and played there from 1973-77. Now you’ve been back working at the school for about 20 years. What keeps you at BU?
Eruzione: Anybody who is involved in a college atmosphere -- there’s energy on campus and with our student-athletes, not just our hockey players.
Academically, it’s as good of a school as there is in the country. I just like that atmosphere. It’s fun to be around.
I love the school. They continue to let me do all the other things that I do, such as speaking engagements, golf outings and charity events.
NBCOlympics.com: You’ve spent almost half of your 59 years alive being at BU in some capacity. How did you end up there to begin with? How much did going to school there impact your making the 1980 Olympic team?
Eruzione: Originally, I wanted to go to the University of New Hampshire, but the UNH coach didn’t think I could play Division I hockey. So, I had no place to go to school.
I was going to Merrimack College, which was a Division II school.
I happened to be playing in a summer-league game, when I usually didn’t play hockey and played baseball in the summer. But I just went to this (hockey) game because my buddies needed some players.
The guy refereeing the game was Jack Parker, and he, at the time, was the assistant coach at BU.
Editor's note: Jack Parker later became a legendary head coach at BU, serving as the hockey team’s head coach from 1973-2013
They had this scholarship available because this kid from Canada decided not to go, so he offered me the scholarship.
If I never played in that summer-league game, I never would have went to BU and I never would have made the Olympic team.
It was just fate, opportunity, life.
NBCOlympics.com: The way you speak about it, it’s almost as if you just got "lucky." You also work as a motivational speaker. It’s hard to imagine you telling people you speak for to count on getting "lucky." What types of things 'do' you say as a motivational speaker? For example, what would you say to motivate the 2014 men’s Olympic hockey team?
Eruzione: I’m not sure if they really want to listen to me. They’ve heard enough about 1980 (laughs).
I’d just tell them to pursue that dream.
NBCOlympics.com: A lot of people cite your team winning the 1980 gold medals as being the event that kick started the growth of hockey in the U.S. How does hearing something like that make you feel? And what are your thoughts on the U.S. as a hockey country? Do you think there’s a shot at gold medals in Sochi?
Eruzione: Hearing those things always makes you feel good.
But as I’ve said many times, ‘we may have opened the door in 1980, but today’s players have kicked that door down.'
Our players are so good now. We go into tournaments now as one of the favorites. They’re so talented and so skilled.
I think we’re going to win another gold medal, too. I don’t know when it’s going to be, and it might be this time around.
But I just hope it’s this time, because to win it in Russia would be awesome.
NBCOlympics.com: You mention Russia. Some of their former gold medal-winning hockey players have come out and said something to the 2014 team to the effect of ‘don’t let us down’ going into the Olympics. That’s an awful lot of pressure. Although you’re American, what would you say as a motivational speaker to the 2014 Russian Olympic hockey team?
Eruzione: There’s enough pressure on you to begin with, and to have it in your own backyard is even more pressure.
You got to go out and just play the game. You can’t let outside things influence you. You just have to go out and play the game, and whatever happens, happens.
NBCOlympics.com: Well, with the Russians, something that hasn’t happened lately is them winning Olympic hockey gold medals. In fact, they haven’t won gold since 1992, after having won seven of the previous eight gold medals. There are a lot of theories. Why do you think that Russia hasn’t won gold since 1992?
Eruzione: In 1980, there was only one country.
Now, there’s I don’t know, 30 countries?
If you took all the players -- if the Russians were still one country -- how good would that team be?
NBCOlympics.com: On a lighter note, the movie “Miracle”. It’s about 10 years old now, but it portrayed your coach, Herb Brooks, as being pretty tough. Was he really that tough to play for?
Eruzione: The movie was pretty close.
But Herb Brooks was a little nicer in the movie. They softened him up.
He was hard and he was demanding, but you could trust him and that’s what you always want with a coach.