Mike Eruzione

For Mike Eruzione, Al Michaels, it’s no miracle that 1980 Olympics endure

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Mike Eruzione has been reminded on a daily basis about the Miracle on Ice for nearly four decades. While playing celebrity golf tournaments. At speaking engagements. Or that time he auctioned his jersey and stick from the Soviet game to a 9-year-old boy named Seven.

Eruzione, now 65, likes to open conversations with one anecdote about meeting strangers, which he repeated in a call with reporters last week.

“The stories I hear, 40 years later, it’s depending on their age — I remember where I was when Kennedy was assassinated, I remember where I was on 9/11. I remember where I was when the Challenger blew up. And I remember where I was when we won,” Eruzione said. “And I always say, ‘We? I didn’t know you were on the team.’

“But people felt a part of it. … It’s nice to know that people remember and share some great stories about what we did so long ago.”

The captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team owns a last name that means “eruption” in Italian. Eruzione scored the decisive goal in the U.S.’ 4-3 win over the Soviet Union en route to a shock gold medal during the Cold War in Lake Placid, N.Y.

NBCSN airs a 30-minute special marking the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice on Wednesday at 11:30 p.m. ET. It will feature a conversation between Olympic primetime host Mike Tirico and Al Michaels, the play-by-play voice of the game dubbed by Sports Illustrated the greatest sports moment of the 20th century.

Eruzione has grandchildren now. Three of them skate at the Mike Eruzione Center in his hometown of Winthrop, Mass.

“They don’t even know who Mike Eruzione is,” Eruzione said of the 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds, “but they know about the Miracle.”

All credit to the U.S. Olympic team of 20 players between ages 19 and 25, back when the NHL did not participate in the Olympics. The Soviets were essentially a team of professionals. The nation won the previous four Olympics and throttled the U.S. 10-3 in a pre-Olympic exhibition at Madison Square Garden.

Enter Michaels, calling hockey at the Lake Placid Winter Games alongside Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden. Michaels, then 35, said he was assigned the sport because he had the most hockey experience on the ABC Olympic talent roster — one game. He called the 1972 Olympic hockey final by himself.

Feb. 22, 1980: As the U.S. led the Soviet Union 4-3 and the final seconds ticked down, one word came to mind: miraculous.

“It got morphed into a question and quick answer, and away we went,” Michaels said.

Eruzione said he didn’t learn of Michaels’ call — “Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!” — until two weeks after the Olympics. He didn’t watch the game broadcast until years later.

“I never thought it was a miracle, but it was a catchy phrase and it sounded right,” Eruzione said, noting he preferred Michaels’ call in the final comeback win over Finland to clinch the gold: “This impossible dream comes true.”

Team members since gathered often — to light the 2002 Olympic cauldron in Salt Lake City, for fantasy camps in Lake Placid and for coach Herb Brooks‘ 2003 funeral. Eighteen of the 20 players are scheduled to reunite this weekend in Las Vegas.

Absent will be Mark Pavelich, who was jailed last year on assault charges and ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial. And Bob Suter, who died in 2014 of a heart attack at age 57.

It was Suter’s death that motivated Eruzione and others to commemorate the 35th anniversary together in Lake Placid. It was believed to be the first time all living players were together in Lake Placid since the 1980 Winter Games.

Eruzione said that the 2004 film “Miracle” introduced the team to a new generation. Now at many of his speeches, the majority of Eruzione’s audience was born after 1980.

“I’ll say, how many people watched the movie ‘Miracle,’ and almost everybody raises their hand,” he said. “So I think what the movie did for us as a team was kind of rejuvenated our team as far as people knowing who we were and what we are and what we were about.”

NFL coaches set up “Miracle” viewings for their teams before games. Michael Phelps watched it for motivation at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Phelps told relay teammates, “This is our time,” before they beat rival Australia. An ode to Brooks’ pregame speech before the Soviet game.

Michaels, whose 13-year-old grandson won an October hockey tournament in Lake Placid, said he watched “Miracle” last week for the first time in about a decade. He helped do voiceovers in production more than 15 years ago, though the original Lake Placid audio was used for his signature call.

“The great thing is, in a way, when you watch it back or you watch highlights back, you almost become like in the third person, like somebody else is doing this and announcing this game,” Michaels said. “I exult the way I think most of the country did and do when they see highlights of it. So it’s kind of an out-of-body experience in a way, but it’s a beautiful thing.”

After Eruzione shared his tale of strangers’ memories, Michaels added one of his own.

“One of my favorite stories is Mike Eruzione calling me maybe eight to 10 years ago and saying, ‘The greatest thing about this is every time I come home and maybe I’m a little down, I need a little pick-me-up, I’ll put the tape in,'” Michaels said. “‘Every time I shoot, the puck goes in. It will forever.'”

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MORE: Miracle on Ice reunion to include all but 2 players

Remembering the day Dan Jansen struck Olympic gold, 25 years ago

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By US Speedskating

Many of us remember that momentous day 25 years ago (Friday, Feb. 18, 1994), when Dan Jansen finally achieved his dream and won an Olympic gold medal in the 1000m in world record fashion at the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

It was a moment of triumph and exhilaration for Jansen. It was also a time of celebration for many Americans, the whole world for that matter, to see the down-to-earth, all-American good guy finally snap the Olympic medal jinx in such dramatic fashion. The world was a nicer place when Jansen struck Olympic gold.

“Overall I have been very blessed, because of who I am, what I’ve done and how I did it,” Jansen said. “I am in a position to do positive things in this world. If my visibility and character can be used to create more awareness and raise funds for worthy causes, I am happy to do what I can.”

Dan turned his Olympic glory into another form of gold when he started the Dan Jansen Foundation. Thanks to the generosity of individual donors, corporate contributions and his own charity golf outing, his foundation is helping in the fight against leukemia, assisting high school seniors in pursuit of higher education, and supporting a variety of youth sports programs.

Since 1995, the DJ Foundation has contributed more than $800,000 to needy families and causes.

The DJF/Jane Jansen Beres Family Aid Fund has benefited over 700 families affected by leukemia and related cancers. The DJF Scholarship Fund has helped more than 100 high school seniors who need financial aid and have demonstrated the Dan Jansen spirit toward life, education and overcoming adversity. Olympic speed skaters striving to realize their Olympic dream have been among those who also have benefited.

The goal this year for Dan and the Dan Jansen Foundation is to surpass the $1 million mark in total funds donated to worthy causes and those in need.

In honor of Jansen’s epic Olympic gold medal performance, a special Dan Jansen 25th (Gold turns Silver) Anniversary Tribute is being planned on Saturday, Oct. 12, at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisc.

Donors and participants are being invited to take a trip down memory lane with Jansen; catch up with an Olympic icon and one of Wisconsin’s favorite sons; and honor his achievements with special tributes from the likes of Olympic gold medalists Mike Eruzione (hockey), Kristi Yamaguchi (figure skating), Bonnie Blair (speedskating) and other luminaries. They’ll also be showing their support for the Dan Jansen Foundation.

In addition, Dan serves on the Board of Directors for Cool Kids Campaign Foundation. This foundation provides services and resources to children with cancer and their families in Baltimore, MD and soon in Charlotte, NC. To learn more about Cool Kids Campaign Foundation, go to coolkidscampaign.com

For information on the attending this charity fundraising event or making a donation to this, cause visit djfoundation.org or contact Sean Callahan, Executive Director Dan Jansen Foundation at 414-687-7781.

MORE: Catching up with Bonnie Blair

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Behind the scenes of Miracle on Ice reunion

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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — All living members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team prepared to walk to the rink together for the first time since they captured gold 35 years ago.

Herb Brooks was not there to give a rousing speech this time. Neither was Bob Suter, the first of the team members to die in September.

But captained by Mike Eruzione and capped by Jim Craig, they filed into Herb Brooks Arena to rousing cheers on Saturday night.

The “Relive the Miracle” event culminated a nostalgic day for the 19 men. Read more about their visit to Lake Placid in this NBC SportsWorld story — Timeless Miracle.