Mike Eruzione On WFAN: United States Captain Talks 1980 Olympics, 'Miracle'

40th Anniversary Will Be On Feb. 22

Moose & Maggie
January 28, 2020 - 6:03 pm

Mike Eruzione scored arguably the most memorable goal in the history of the United States' hockey program.

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Eruzione's third-period goal was the decisive tally as the United States defeated the dominant USSR, who had won four consecutive Olympic gold medals. The United States would later defeat Finland for the gold, but it was that win over the Soviets that ignited it all and remains on the minds of Americans.

With the 40th anniversary of the historic win on Feb. 22, Eruzione joined WFAN's Maggie Gray and Marc Malusis. 

"I remember I called home after we beat the Soviets and my sister started screaming on the other end of the phone. I said, 'Obviously you're having a party, I'll call back' and I hung up," Eruzione said. "That's all we knew about it other than family, friends and people in Lake Placid. It wasn't until after the Olympic games that we got out to the countryside and went 'wow, this thing was huge.' Forty years later, I still get tons of letters in the mail, tons of people asking me questions ... but we never thought it would have the legs that it had."

The United States' journey to the gold was adapted into the 2004 film "Miracle," which grossed $64.5 million at the box office. In one of the iconic scenes from the film, Herb Brooks, played by Kurt Russell, forced his team to participate in a rigorous post-game practice. The inspirational scene ended with Eruzione, played by Patrick O'Brien Demsey, declaring he plays for the United States of America. 

The Massachusetts native broke down what really happened that night, where Brooks' "wasn't happy" following the United States' meeting with Norway. 

"We got through shaking the Norwegian players hands and we started to skate off the ice," Eruzione recalled. "Next thing you know, we're at one end of the ice and we start to do drills called 'Herbies'. We did it in segments of five at a time and we did it in waves of three. We did it for about 15 minutes then he blew the whistle and we stretched. Then he blew it and we went back to the line and did them again. ... We did them for about an hour and 15 minutes after the game.

"How the drill actually ended was Mark Johnson smashed his stick against the glass," Eruzione added. "After a while, guys have been smashing their stick against the glass. After Mark smashed it against the glass, Herb said if I hear another stick break against the glass you'll skate until you die. Well nobody said a word and he finally blew the whistle. We went in the locker room and he said if you guys play this way again tomorrow, you're going to skate again. We won 8-0 the next day. The point was well taken."

Eruzione served as the United States' captain during the 1980 Olympic games. Sports Illustrated dubbed the monumental win over the USSR as the "greatest moment in sports history." 

"To us as a hockey team, it was an athletic event. But to people in this country, it was something we needed," Eruzione said. "We were able to get — kind of like showed the world, 'this is what makes our country so great.' Herb used to call us a lunch-pail, hard-hat group of guys. And I think people related to us. We were kids who came from working class families who respected the game of hockey, respected each other, respected the country that we lived in and the honor it was to represent your country and that's different than — when it's the Olympic games, it's a nation.

"So when we watch Michael Phelps or Eric Heiden, or Simone Biles compete, or the women's soccer team; we feel a part of it because they represent us," Eruzione said. "That's why I think our moment is still so special because what it meant to people for a lot of different reasons other than sports."