Mike Eruzione still looks back at the 1980 Winter Olympics as his moment of destiny.
A “Miracle on Ice,” as it has been called many times since then? Yeah, that’s fitting, Eruzione will tell you.
How else do you explain a group of college hockey players going up against a heavily favored Soviet Union team and upsetting them, then going on to win the gold medal by defeating Finland?
“Going in, we thought we maybe had a shot at the bronze medal if we played up to our potential,” Eruzione, the captain of the U.S. team who scored the game-winning goal in a 4-3 win over the Soviets, said Saturday while in the Kansas City area to participate in a fund-raiser. “I don’t think anyone gave us much of a chance of going far.
“We had just lost to the Soviets in an exhibition game, 10-3, and it really wasn’t that close. But in the Olympics, we played like we didn’t have anything to lose.
“And with each win, we got more confidence. By the time we played the Soviets, we were a lot better team than anyone gave us credit for.”
It has been called the greatest upset in sports history, and Eruzione won’t argue. He still looks back at a tape of the game, with television announcer Al Michaels shouting, “Do you believe in miracles?” and gets choked up.
“I didn’t go on to play NHL hockey,” said Eruzione, who lives in Winthrop, Mass., and works for Boston University. “To me, I had reached the pinnacle in my career.”
Eruzione and three of his teammates on that 1980 team — Ken Morrow, Dave Christian and Buzz Schneider — were raising funds in Kansas City for Morrow’s charity, KCIce, and the National Hockey League Players’ Association’s charity, Uncommon Community. They were guests of the Missouri Mavericks hockey team.
Morrow started KCIce to raise money to get more ice rinks in the Kansas City area for the ice sports. Uncommon Community has similar goals, raising money to buy hockey equipment for children and encouraging local involvement in the sport.
Morrow moved to Kansas City in 1990 to help coach the IHL’s Blades. He went on to serve in other capacities in pro hockey, including his current job as director of scouting for the New York Islanders. But his home remains in Kansas City, where he donates time to getting kids involved in hockey.
The four Olympians started Saturday by appearing at the Burlington Creek center in the Northland and skating with fans at the outdoor rink there. They then held an autograph session before the Mavericks’ game at the Independence Events Center.
They later watched the game with fans who bought limited suite tickets and participated in a silent auction that featured items such as Eruzione’s signed team jersey.
For the players, it was a reminder of the long-lasting fascination with the “Miracle on Ice.”
“People want to talk to us every four years,” Christian said. “They still remember.”