To say that Mike Eruzione is the United States greatest hockey legend sounds a little funny. He was not exactly a great player. In fact he never made it to the NHL. Of all the great names in American hockey history, Eruzione would probably rank near the bottom in terms of hockey talent.
Yet Eruzione's lone significant accomplishment ranks highest of all American hockey achievements.
Mike Eruzione scored the game winning goal in the legendary "Miracle on Ice" game against the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics. Like Paul Henderson for Canada in 1972, Eruzione will forever be remember for scoring that goal and little else.
The 1980 Olympic Games were of course held in Lake Placid New York. The American squad was led by head coach Herb Brooks and were heavy underdogs. In an exhibition game just prior to the Olympics, the Soviets dismantled a U.S. squad with an average age of 20, 11 goals to 3.
After an opening game tie against Sweden, the Americans would go on to win their next 4 games, only to find themselves against the Goliath known as the Soviet Union. Coach Brooks told his team "You were born to be hockey players. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours."
In a classic confrontation the teams remained tied with ten minutes to go. Enter Eruzione the American team captain.
The confident youngster from Boston University snapped a shot to give the U.S. a stunning 4-3 lead which they managed to hang on to despite immense pressure. With a win over Finland a couple of days later, the USA clinched the gold medal. The Soviets were forced to settle for silver.
Mike Eruzione was at the right place at the right time. Now he is forever etched into hockey history, and will forever go down as one the greatest hockey legends.
Despite his instant notoriety, Eruzione chose not to pursue the many NHL contract offers that were coming in, most notably from the New York Rangers. Instead the 25 year old chose to retire soon after the Olympics saying nothing he could do in hockey could ever equal his Olympic experience and that he wanted to go out on top.
Eruzione went on to become a popular and well paid public speaker as well as covering Olympic hockey games for major American television networks as well as some NHL games. He also returned to Boston University where he coached and was director of development for BU Athletics.