The 1980 United States Olympic hockey team is like a blue blazer and a fine work of art rolled into one: It will never go out of style, and its value will never, ever diminish. Our triumph over the Soviet Union and subsequent victory over Finland in the gold medal game were so improbable, so momentous, so joyous as to defy categorization. In the history of American sports, the run to gold during that unforgettable February from frigid Lake Placid is uniquely and singularly priceless.
These truths were never more evident over the past week as the country marked the 30th anniversary of Team USA’s victory over the Soviets. Naturally, Winthrop’s own Mike Eruzione helped lead the discussion. Circumstances, coupled with his easygoing personality and strong communication skills, have combined to make Eruzione the unofficial spokesperson for the ’80 gold medalists. It’s a job he handles with particular skill and savvy. Make no mistake, one of the big reasons why this team remains so fresh and vibrant all these years later is Mike Eruzione, whose recollections about his game-winning goal vs. the Russians and the ’80 Games in general never grow tired or stale.
Eruzione has appeared on a number of media outlets in recent days, most notably with teammates Mark Johnson and Jim Craig and NBC broadcaster Al Michaels as part of the coverage of the ongoing Olympic Games from Vancouver. He looks older, but not thirty years older. He’s heavier, but not much heavier. He’s polished but not programmed. He’s confident but not brash. He’s articulate, but he’s not a smoothie. All in all, Central Casting couldn’t have ordered up a better guy to score a goal that requires so much replaying and retelling.
The ’80 Olympics is the first sporting event I can recall in any detail (I was nine). I remember all of it — from the opening tie vs. Sweden (the most underrated game in the history of the world, but that’s another story for another day) right through to the Sunday morning victory over Finland. Thirty years later, I occasionally think about that tournament and rattle off the names of those guys in my head. O’Callahan, Broten, Morrow, Ramsey, Christian, Harrington, McClanahan, Baker.
Why? Why do so many of us remember so much about that team? Why do we never tire of reminiscing about the February of 1980?
That’s easy. Because we know we’ll never see anything like it ever again.
- David O’Connor