Miracle On Ice

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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Another Miracle on Ice player’s Olympic gold medal being auctioned

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Steve Christoff‘s Olympic gold medal is going up for auction again.

The Miracle on Ice forward’s medal and his final jersey are part of Goldin Auctions’ 2020 Winter Auction from next Monday to Feb. 22 at GoldinAuctions.com. The auction ends on the 40th anniversary of the U.S.’ 4-3 win over the Soviet Union in Lake Placid.

The medal and jersey were consigned by somebody other than Christoff, according to Goldin. Christoff’s gold medal was previously put up for auction in 2013 and 2017, but did not sell either time, according to those websites.

Christoff starred in the last game of the 1980 Olympics, a come-from-behind 4-2 victory over Finland to clinch the gold. He scored the first U.S. goal and assisted on the last one.

He was also the U.S.’ leading scorer in its pre-Olympic slate of 56 games, tallying 35 goals, according to Wayne Coffey‘s book “The Boys of Winter.”

Christoff, a standout for Herb Brooks‘ 1979 NCAA title team at Minnesota, would become the model for the trophy for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the top male college hockey player. Christoff played parts of five NHL seasons with the Minnesota North Stars, Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings in the 1980s before becoming a pilot.

At least two of Christoff’s 1980 Olympic teammates previously sold their gold medals.

Mark Pavelich‘s medal was auctioned for $262,900 in May 2014. Mark Wells‘ medal was auctioned for $310,700 in November 2010, after he sold it privately for about a reported $40,000.

Captain Mike Eruzione sold his stick from the U.S.-Soviet Union game and his jersey from the final game against Finland to a 9-year-old boy named Seven in 2013, but not his gold medal.

Goalie Jim Craig and Dave Christian put their medals up for auction, but they reportedly did not meet minimum reserve prices and were not sold.

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Steve Christoff
Courtesty Goldin Auctions
Steve Christoff
Courtesty Goldin Auctions

Miracle on Ice reunion to include all but 2 players from 1980 Olympic hockey team

Miracle on Ice
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All but two players from the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team will gather for a 40th anniversary weekend in Las Vegas, an event organizer said.

“Relive the Miracle,”, reminiscent of a 35th anniversary celebration in Lake Placid, N.Y., in 2015, will be Feb. 21-22 in Las Vegas.

“Back then [in 2015], we had talked about doing it again,” said Jeff Holbrook, who helped organize the 35th and 40th anniversary events. “We’ve been sort of talking about it on and off since that time. Getting the [players] to be on board, I certainly don’t want to say it was easy because it’s never easy when you’re dealing with that many different people, but I think everybody knew when you pack a place like Like Placid with 10,000 people, you know the concept is there. So I think getting them behind it wasn’t hard to do.”

Eighteen of the 20 players on the Miracle on Ice roster committed, including captain Mike Eruzione and goalie Jim Craig, Holbrook said.

The weekend will be missing defenseman Bob Suter, who died in 2014, and forward Mark Pavelich, who was jailed last year on assault charges and ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial.

The 35th anniversary included all living team members gathering for the first time since coach Herb Brooks‘ death in 2003. The only other full reunion since 1980 was for an NHL All-Star weekend event in Los Angeles in 2002. When the team lit the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic cauldron, it was missing Mike Ramsey and Pavelich.

The 40th anniversary weekend kicks off with a two-hour Vegas Golden Knights season-ticket holder event at Brooklyn Bowl on Feb. 21, a Friday night. Holbrook said it sold out in 16 minutes.

Then on Saturday, Holbrook said the goal is for 12,000 people to attend an event at the Thomas & Mack Center on the exact 40th anniversary of the 4-3 win over the Soviet Union.

That “will feature the team on stage with an interactive display of video, audio, memorabilia and never-before-seen components from their Olympic triumphs. A celebrity emcee will moderate conversations between the players, celebrities, and NHL stars as the team takes you through the Miracle on Ice with behind-the-scenes information and stories that chronicle ‘what really happened,'” according to a press release.

Differences from 2015 include the addition of 1980 U.S. Olympic assistant coach Craig Patrick and plans for an element from the Soviet perspective. Holbrook also said there will be celebrity involvement from both the hockey and non-hockey realms. Holbrook, a managing partner for Potentia Athletic Partners whose clients have included Wayne Gretzky, would not reveal specifics but said “the names are substantial.”

Finally, the 1980 team members will be honored during the Golden Knights game versus the Florida Panthers at T-Mobile Arena that Saturday night.

“The tentacles of the Miracle on Ice are so vast,” Holbrook said. “People from different walks of life, whether it’s rock bands or movie stars or politicians, whatever it is, have all been affected by it.”

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