Mike Eruzione (below), the man who scored the winning goal against the Soviets, is still barnstorming North America, delivering the same dog-eared speech about hard work, pride and the other virtues of Old Glory. He sometimes opens the speech with a 20-minute highlight film of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, and those images, to this day, often leave in their wake a sea-to-shining-sea of tears. Arid if the message seems a bit timeworn, the messenger's appeal remains timeless. More than 14 years have passed, and to Eruzione's astonishment, everybody still wants to be like Mike.
But one afternoon in the summer of 1990, the world as we know it almost came crashing down. During the team's 10th reunion at coach Herb Brooks's Shoreview, Minn., home, Bill Baker unveiled the conspiracy theory he had kept to himself for a decade. There were really two shots fired on that historic goal, Baker argued. The first came off Eruzione's stick. "The second," Baker said, "I tipped in." As his incredulous teammates hooted, Baker excitedly flipped on the VCR and began a frame-by-frame analysis of the goal. And upon further review....
The goal stands. "Six inches," says Baker, now an oral surgeon in Brainerd, Minn. "O.K., maybe I missed it by six inches."
So while Baker and most of his teammates gradually recede into our memories, Eruzione endures as a national hero. Since 1980 he has made more than 700 appearances in front of everybody from midget league hockey players to Fortune 500 companies. "Mike has made a wonderful life of it," says Dave Silk, now an assistant hockey coach at Boston University. "He's had almost 15 years of fame. But to be honest, most of us were happy with our own 15 minutes."
February 21, 1994
Not that these guys entered the federal witness protection program. In fact, 13 of the 20 members of that team played in the NHL. Ken Morrow went straight from the U.S. team to the New York Islanders, and it was five years before he would play for a nonchampionship team. Neal Broten (Dallas Stars), Dave Christian (Chicago Black-hawks) and Mike Ramsey (Pittsburgh Penguins) are still playing in the league. Still others found success in other NHL capacities. Craig Patrick, now with the Penguins, has emerged as one of the shrewdest G.M.'s in the game.
Brooks coached six seasons for three NHL clubs (the New York Rangers, the Minnesota North Stars and the New Jersey Devils) and a team in the Swiss League, achieving limited success. Still, he remained a lightning rod for assorted hangers-on and yahoos. "The barstools are full of guys living in the past," Brooks once said ruefully. Today Brooks passes his time peacefully at his home off Turtle Lake in south-central Minnesota. But if you look carefully, you might spy Brooks and Buzz Schneider—a sales representative with a local tractor-trailer company—some night at The 49 Club, a watering hole in nearby Circle Pines, happily indulging the locals.
Jim Craig has little interest in reliving the past. Even as his NHL career unraveled amid a litany of personal problems, Craig remained, along with Eruzione and Brooks, the team's other marquee name. "Would I do it again?" asks Craig, who works for an advertising agency and serves as a volunteer hockey assistant for Northeastern University. "Of course. But obviously that's not going to happen. I had a mediocre career, but it ended quickly enough that I was able to get on with my life." Today he lives in a modest house about three miles from where he grew up in Easton, Mass., happily married and not at all disposed to picking up a ringing telephone.
"For most of us, there aren't too many distractions anymore," says Schneider. "But I'll tell you, the damnedest thing happened a few months ago. I got a call from this guy in New York. He said he was coming to Minnesota to get my autograph. He apparently has an entire room in his home devoted to our team. Well, he took a plane here, got my autograph and was off to catch Eric Strobel, who lives nearby, and Billy Baker, who's a few hours up the road. Amazing, huh?"
Almost to a man, however, the members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team say they are content to let their celebrity fade. "Essentially, we're just a bunch of homebodies anyway," says Jack O'Callahan, who opened a commodities brokerage firm in Chicago.
And perhaps nobody remains more of a homebody than Eruzione, who lives two doors down from the house in which he grew up, in Winthrop, Mass., a tiny hook of land hanging off the north shore of Boston. "When I cross over the bridge into Winthrop," says Eruzione, "it's like a gate slamming behind me. I can take off the suit, put on some beat-up jeans and not worry about shaving."
Then he might head down to his favorite tavern, and if the crowd there wants to hear the story about the night they beat the Russians, he's happy to oblige. Because the barstools are still full of guys living in the past. And what's wrong with that?