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‘Relive the Miracle’ reunion emotional for 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team

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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — The final 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey player arrived at Herb Brooks Arena at 7:23, seven minutes before the “Relive the Miracle” ceremony began.

Jim Craig was escorted into a ready room by New York State Police. “He made it!” one player exclaimed. The show billed as the first time since 1980 that all living Miracle on Ice players gathered in Lake Placid could go on.

“This is mind-boggling,” team captain Mike Eruzione said. “We came here 35 years ago never thinking or dreaming or believing this thing would happen.”

The scoreboard at a rink formerly known as the Olympic Fieldhouse read USA 4, URS 3, just as it did on Feb. 22, 1980.

The 19 men sat below it, wearing replicas of their white Olympic jerseys and sat on a stage, in elevated wooden chairs, to recall the Lake Placid Games with a moderator.

A few thousand fans filled the arena. Often, they broke into “U-S-A” chants. An American flag draped over section 22.

The chronological ceremony was spliced with video of the Miracle on Ice, the 2004 film “Miracle” and the coach Brooks saying before the Olympics that the U.S. was unlikely to win a medal.

It ended with the No. 20 jersey of Bob Suter being raised amid more “U-S-A” chants. The Wisconsin defenseman was the first member of the team to die after he suffered a heart attack on Sept. 9.

In between, the players joked, more about Brooks than anyone else, the team’s two goalies shared a memorable embrace and Suter’s son, the Minnesota Wild’s Ryan Suter, delivered a touching video message about his father.

More about reunion during Hockey Day in America, Sunday at noon on NBC and online

Forward Dave Christian said seeing 18 teammates brought him immediately back to 1980. Craig jetted in after watching his daughter’s final college hockey game, a 5-3 Colgate Raiders loss in Troy, N.Y.

“I’m ready to go out and play the game again,” Christian said.

The players passed microphones on the stage as highlights played on giant raised screens to their left and right, sandwiching an oversized American flag. Nobody spoke more than the captain Eruzione.

The “Miracle” film clips included Brooks’ speech before the Soviet game, of course, but also the scene after a pre-Olympic exhibition against Norway.

The Americans and Norwegians tied, 3-3, a result that disgusted Brooks, who had his players skate from line to line over and over again, even after the arena’s lights were turned off.

“What was lost in the whole story is we played Norway the next day and beat them 8-0,” Eruzione said (though this website says it was 9-0).

Forward John Harrington regretted leaving at his home a notebook that he bought around Christmas 1979. In that notebook, he jotted Brooks’ sayings that became known as “Brooksisms.”

Craig made it a point to appreciate his backup, Steve Janaszak, who won an NCAA Championship under Brooks at Minnesota in 1979 but was the only member of the U.S. team not to play in the Olympics.

“Steve Janaszak was every bit a part of our team, whether he played one second or not,” Craig said.

Janaszak and Craig, Nos. 1 and 30 sitting on opposite sides of the stage, met at the middle with a hug.

Then, the players began reflecting on the Miracle on Ice. It’s been made to drip with political drama, but, as Al Michaels said on the broadcast, it was manifestly a hockey game.

“I don’t think half of us knew where the Soviet Union was,” Dave Silk joked. “If they asked us about [Mikhail] Gorbachev, we would’ve thought he was a left winger.”

Players said they respected and admired the Soviets rather than hating them.

“It was a matter of keeping the game close as long as we could,” said Mark Johnson, who scored to tie the game at 2-2 and 3-3.

Then, everybody turned to watch Eruzione’s game-deciding goal, assisted by Mark Pavelich, who drove in from Oregon (with a stop in Minnesota) this week, and by Harrington.

“You know, I could probably score this myself,” Harrington joked of the Eruzione goal. “But, as a great teammate of Mike’s, our captain, why don’t I pass it to him and let him make millions in the next 35 years.”

“If the roles were reversed, and you had the shot, it would have been wide and long,” Eruzione retorted.

Then, defenseman Jack O’Callahan spoke up.

“By the way, it’s been way more than millions,” he said.

They joked that a teammate got a piece of Eruzione’s shot and deflected it in. And that Eruzione’s eyes were closed when he shot.

“Open, closed, it didn’t matter,” Eruzione said. “It went right where it was supposed to be.”

The final two minutes of the Miracle on Ice game were played on the giant screens, ending with Michaels “Do you believe in miracles?” call being drowned out by the crowd’s applause.

Finally, Bob Suter’s No. 20 jersey was raised, an honor that son Ryan Suter said gave him goosebumps in a prerecorded video message.

The players filed out after the Star-Spangled Banner played to the backdrop of the video of Eruzione waving his teammates to join him on the podium 35 years ago.

“We still feel like it’s 20 [players],” O’Callahan said, “because Bobby’s up here with us.”

How the Miracle on Ice reunion came together

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