Mike Eruzione on Bob Suter, possible 1980 U.S. Olympic team reunion, more

Mike Eruzione
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Mike Eruzione, the captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that won gold after the “Miracle on Ice” in Lake Placid, discussed Olympic hockey, the recent passing of Olympic teammate Bob Suter and more in a Q&A with OlympicTalk last week.

Here’s a portion of the conversation from NFL Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti‘s Fund to Cure Paralysis dinner in New York:

OlympicTalk: What are your thoughts on the possible return of the World Cup of Hockey?

Eruzione: I’m a huge fan of it. I’ve been promoting that. I said that to many people years ago. I think the World Cup of Hockey is a better opportunity for all the countries to practice together, train together and compete to see who the best team in the world is. The Olympic Games, I felt, you don’t practice together, you go over there, and you start playing games. If you want to see who the best team in the world is, let them practice together for a couple of weeks, let them train together, get used to each other and then play the tournament.

OlympicTalk: What did you think of the Sochi Olympic tournament?

Eruzione: I’ve watched every Olympic game since 1980. I really think that, for the United States standpoint, we belong with everybody now. In 1980, we might have opened the door. Today’s players have knocked the door down. We go into a tournament now as a favorite. I think it was a very disappointing finish for the U.S. team in Sochi [fourth]. I thought, the way they started out, they were going to take a real good run at it.

OlympicTalk: When was the last time the entire 1980 U.S. Olympic team was together?

Eruzione: Salt Lake City [2002 Olympics] there were 19 [out of the 20] of us together [Mike Ramsey missed the Opening Ceremony, where team members lit the cauldron, due to coaching commitments with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. The reclusive Mark Pavelich did not attend. Eruzione didn’t specify which player arrived later in the Games].

When [coach] Herb [Brooks] passed away [in 2003] there were 20 of us together. Unfortunately, when Bobby Suter passed away, I think there were 10 or 12 of us that were able to get back to pay tribute to Bobby. We’re hoping next year, with the 35th anniversary, there might be a couple opportunities for us to get together as 19 guys. We’re sad that Bobby’s moved on, that all 20 of us couldn’t get together more often.

OlympicTalk: How hard was that, hearing about Bob?

Eruzione: As a team, we’ve experienced nothing but great moments. The only two negative or sad moments are when Herb passed and now, clearly, when one of your teammates passes. You think, 35 years, usually something happens to 20 guys. We had hung in there and been all part of that moment. It’s going to be interesting and sad to think about the next time we’re together as a team that one of us is not there but not for a family function or a speaking engagement but the fact that he’s no longer with us. There are going to be more of those moments. It makes us realize that maybe, this year, it would be nice if we could get everyone together.

OlympicTalk: Did you go back for Bob’s service?

Eruzione: I went back for the service. I couldn’t get there for the wake. Mark Johnson spoke [at the tribute service], and Mark was dead-on awesome talking about Bobby, what he meant not only to the hockey world but to the people of Madison. I don’t think people realized how important Bobby was to hockey in Madison, Wisconsin. I’ve said this before, with all due respect to my teammates, I think nobody has done more for the sport of ice hockey with the youth level and the high school level than Bobby did in Madison. So he’s not only missed by us as a teammate but clearly missed by his community as well as his wife and kids.

OlympicTalk: Bob had an ankle injury and reportedly didn’t play against the Soviet Union. Do you remember him playing?

Eruzione: I’ve got to think Bobby took a couple shifts in that game, I could be wrong. I’ve only see that game twice, and the last time was probably 20 years ago.

OlympicTalk: You sold some of your 1980 souvenirs to a 9-year-old boy named Seven last year. Any regrets?

Eruzione: No. I made a decision, and my grandkids are going to benefit from what I did. I said many times I did it for the right reason. I’m not destitute. I’m not financially broke. I thought this was the time to do something for them. I guess, if you look back on it, maybe I could have waited 10 years, 15 more years, but I wanted to see where it was going to go. God forbid something happens to me, and then it’s being sold, I won’t see the rewards or the results of it. This is better that I can see that the money is going to go to them.

OlympicTalk: If the 1980 team gets together for the 35-year anniversary, is there a setting you would like it to be at?

Eruzione: It would be awesome if we could be back in Lake Placid, for Lake Placid’s sake. Because it’s such a great little place and where it all started. If not, maybe Augusta [Ga.], where we could all go play golf [laughs]. The perfect setting and the right setting probably should be and hopefully will be Lake Placid.

source:
Courtesty ORDA/Whiteface Lake Placid

OlympicTalk: When was the last time you were at Lake Placid?

Eruzione: Last year. I get back quite a bit to Lake Placid for speaking engagements and functions. Interestingly, Bobby went back for a hockey tournament this year with Buzz Schneider, and they spent the weekend there and signed autographs and did some visits. Then, the day of Bobby’s funeral, they hung his jersey from the rafters [at Herb Brooks Arena] with the score of the U.S.-Soviet game.

OlympicTalk: What do you think of driving through Lake Placid nowadays?

Eruzione: It’s like Pleasantville. It hasn’t changed. It’s what makes the place so unique. Every store you go in, there’s videos of the Olympic Games. Eric Heiden or Beth Heiden, Linda Fratianne, the bobsledders. As great as a moment it was for us as a team, they kind of hang their hat on that moment as well. It’s good for them, because it’s such a great place, and the people there are so nice. I highly recommend you go.

The doors, when you walk into the rink, the picture is of us winning. And then the door opens, and you walk into the building. I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of people over the years that have come up to me and said, “I brought my son to a tournament in Lake Placid,” or, “I went on vacation in Lake Placid, and I can’t believe how special it is.”

Photos: Lindsey Vonn ski training in Austria

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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