Publish date:

Athletes Then & Now: Mike Eruzione


As the U.S. Hockey team celebrates its stunning upset over Canada, we look back at the biggest upset in Olympic hockey history, the 1980 U.S. squad -- led by captain Mike Eruzione -- beating the heavily-favored USSR team.

They called it then, as they call it now, the goal heard around the world -- as indelible as moments get in sports. And it all belongs to Mike Eruzione, the 25-year-old captain and forward for the U.S. hockey team at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Eruzione had been a star at Boston University, recording 208 points with 92 goals and 116 assists in his college career. (He's the school's fifth all-time leading scorer.) While a Terrier, he also competed for Team USA at the 1975 and 1976 Ice Hockey World Championships. After graduation, he suited up for the Toledo Goaldiggers, skating to both Rookie of the Year honors and the Turner Cup in 1978.

Impressive as they are, all of these accolades would be superseded by a single instant in his Olympic team's battle with the formidable Soviets, who hadn't worn anything less than gold since 1960. The underdog Yanks had fought through four victories and a draw to arrive at this most daunting challenge. The squads battled to a 3-3 tie (courtesy of Mark Johnson) in the final period, then, with roughly 10 minutes remaining, the U.S.' Mark Pavelich served the puck to Eruzione, who shot it past goaltender Vladimir Myshkin for a 4-3 lead. The boys held on as minutes fell to seconds and Lake Placid was becoming anything but. ABC commentator Al Michaels spoke for the exultant masses when he cried, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" Two days later, after toppling Finland 4-2, the U.S. claimed morale-boosting gold for the first time in 20 years.

SI Recommends

After making history (although his friends continue to kid, "Three inches to the left and you'd be painting bridges ..."), Eruzione retired from hockey. After all, he was never going to top that. He became a broadcaster for a while, calling games for the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers, as well as the Olympics for ABC and CBS. Today, between his many speaking engagements and public appearances (he was on hand in Vancouver on Valentine's Day to watch the Olympic debut of the U.S. women's hockey team, coached by Johnson; they demolished China 12-1, no miracles necessary), he maintains an office at his old alma mater, Boston University, as a "director of special outreach." The title doesn't matter -- it's the name that carries the weight, even 30 years later. But Eruzione keeps it all in perspective. As he told the Boston Globe last month, "My life isn't defined by two weeks in Lake Placid, but Lake Placid gave me the opportunity to define my life."

(Created by

SodaHead: What is the greatest moment in US Olympic history?Video: Mike Eruzione's goal heard around the worldSI Vault: Eruzione leads U.S. past Soviets (3.3.80)SI Vault:U.S. hockey squad named Sportsmen of the Year (12.22.80)SI Vault:Top 10 Olympic Hockey Moments