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Reliving the 'Miracle on Ice' with 1980 USA Olympic HockeyTeam Captain Mike Eruzione

by on March 28, 2013 6:32 AM

An opportunity to hear one of the best motivational speakers of our generation will present itself to PSU students and residents of Centre County on April 10.

Mike Eruzione, the 1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team Captain, who scored the winning goal against the Russians, will describe the "Miracle on Ice" from his perspective at Eisenhower Auditorium.

While I am admittedly biased, I believe the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" is the greatest upset in the history of sports. Not just team sports, not just the Olympics, not just for the 20th century, but of all-time.

My evidence? Watch the movie "Miracle" or better yet, find the HBO special "The Miracle of Lake Placid". It will go down as the greatest upset because a bunch of American college kids beat the best hockey team in the world. It happened at a time when this country was going through what then-President Jimmy Carter called a "crisis of confidence."

The Soviets had just embarrassed the NHL All-Star team 6-0 and had regularly won the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships. They also beat Team USA 10-3 in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden just weeks before the Olympic games began.

What that group of American kids pulled off at a time when our country needed something positive really was a miracle.

I sat in the study lounge of 7th floor Pinchot Hall with a crowd of my hockey buddies and watched in amazement. Team USA was tied with the mighty Soviets 3-3 with a little over 10 minutes to go.

Then ABC Color Analyst Ken Dryden said, "The US team is relying a little too heavily on goaltender Jim Craig." Suddenly he was interrupted by announcer Al Michaels.... "Eruzione, scores!!! Mike Eruzione gives Team USA a 4-3 lead over the Soviet Union!"

We were jumping up and down screaming at the top of our lungs and suddenly the study lounge was filled with my floor mates, most of whom didn't understand or like hockey. It didn't matter. All that mattered was that we were beating the hated Soviets and the national pride swelled in all of us.

That last ten minutes was an eternity until we heard the now iconic call from Al Michaels: "11 seconds, you've got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles?! YES!"

I still get chills every time I hear a replay of that call from the final seconds.

Mike Eruzione is currently a Motivational speaker and a fundraiser and administrator at his alma mater, Boston University. I first met Mike at an American Hockey Coaches Association Annual convention in Naples, FL in 2000 for the 20th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice Team.

At the American Hockey Coaches Association Annual convention in 2005 a gathering of the members of the 1980 team took place as part of their 25th anniversary celebration. During a panel discussion about the game, Mike took the opportunity to poke fun at Goaltender Jim Craig’s abbreviated NHL career.

Craig turned to his old team captain and Boston University teammate and in reference to Eruzione's game winning goal vs. the Soviets, he snickered, "Rizzo, if your shot had been a quarter of an inch to either side, you would have been painting bridges for a living."

It was great to see so many of the guys together telling stories about those amazing Olympic Games in that tiny village of Lake Placid.

Craig Patrick, whose sons C.J. and Ryan played for me on the Icers, was assistant coach to Herb Brooks in 1980. He was asked if he had consulted on the film "Miracle". He said "No." When asked if he was planning to see the movie he answered "Don't have to, I lived it."

Eruzione was known for his wit and playfulness with the media. He made a famous quote about the team when he told the press, "We may be young, but we're immature!" He and his teammates also kept a list of "Brooksisms" that will crack you up.

Herb Brooks was a visionary and a hockey genius. He was also at times very misunderstood. Some people in youth hockey believed he was all about "the system" and "Herbies" (see the scene in Miracle where he skates the players into the ice even after the rink manager shut off the lights!).

In reality Herb was all about fundamentals and skill development especially for youth players. In my days as the Director of Amateur Hockey Development for the Penguins I was able to get Herb, while he was Head Coach of the New York Rangers, to participate in a weekend coaches clinic. He asked the coaches in attendance to use the "K.I.S.S." system when it came to training young athletes. He also said the key to developing was ice time and practice, He detested the over-emphasis on travel sports.

"No one ever became a better player riding in the back seat of a car".

If you want to hear more about Coach Brooks and the 1980 Olympics from this incredibly inspiring and fun speaker get your tickets in advance!

Tickets will be available for Penn State Students beginning Wednesday, March 27. Any remaining tickets will be available to the General Public beginning Wednesday, April 3. Tickets are available at Eisenhower Auditorium, Bryce Jordan Ticket Center, HUB Information Desk, and the Penn State Downtown Theatre.

I have told this story before: it was August 25, 2010 and Mike had just given me tour of Boston University's Agganis Arena. As I walked across Commonwealth Avenue I got THE text message from Terry Pegula telling me he signed his gift agreement to PSU!

I am tentatively scheduled to give Mike a tour of Pegula Ice Arena while he is in town to return the favor. I will be there to hear Mike speak on April 10 and to thank him for reminding us all that Miracles still do happen.

I still believe in miracles. Mine is being built at the corner of University Drive and Curtin Road!

Joe Battista has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. He is best known for his effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. “JoeBa” is the owner of PRAGMATIC Passion, LLC consulting, a professional speaker, success coach, and the vice president of the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy (NAPSA). He is the author of a new book, “The Power of Pragmatic Passion.” Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 & ’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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