Eruzione shows grandkids ‘Miracle’ site
LAKE PLACID — For Mike Eruzione’s grandchildren, most of their knowledge of what happened here on Feb. 22, 1980, was through the 2004 film “Miracle” and that’s only for those who have seen it.
Mike’s son Mike Eruzione Jr. said his kids had seen the movie but hadn’t comprehended that it was about an actual event.
Another grandchild, Michael Callinan, said his favorite part was when his grandfather scored the game-winning goal.
On Thursday, the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team captain took his grandchildren on a tour of Lake Placid, including the arena that still echoes his underdog team’s glorious win over the mighty Soviet Union. That 4-3 “Miracle on Ice” win set up the U.S. team’s gold medal win over Finland.
“When you step into the rink, you can almost still hear the ‘USA, USA’ chants,” Mike said. “When you’re sitting on the bench having a look around, you realize what that moment was like to be on that ice and to accomplish something so special.
“To look out at the (speedskating) oval and to remember what Eric Heiden did and his performance was like mind-boggling, and we’ll never see that again,” he added. “I think the little things like that I get to see and remember, it puts you kind of right back then at that time.”
Mike has revisited Lake Placid quite a few times in recent years — for the Miracle on Ice Fantasy camp, anniversaries of the game and other appearances — but his family not so much. They all live in Massachusetts, and only his two sons and his wife, Donna, had made the trip to this village.
The last time Donna was in Lake Placid was during the 1980 Olympic Games.
“I don’t remember much about it,” she said. “I was only here for like three days.”
As Mike walked through the Olympic Museum with his grandchildren, he showed off Olympic medals, pins and torches.
“It’s really cool for them to see all the different artwork everywhere and his name everywhere. They keep yelling it,” Mike’s daughter LeighAnn Eruzione Callinan said. “They are like, ‘That picture is in the living room, and that picture is in the basement.'”
The family also watched highlights from ABC’s broadcast of the 1980 game against the Soviets. The video showed Mike Eruzione rifling the game-winning shot past the Soviet Union’s Vladimir Myshkin with about 10 minutes left in the game.
“That’s Papa,” one of the grandchildren said.
Through the years, his children and grandchildren have met a bunch of his former Olympic teammates, including Jack O’Callahan, Dave Silk and Jim Craig — “the Boston guys,” Mike said.
“My son met a bunch of the guys when we premiered the movie ‘Miracle,'” he said. Someday they’ll be able to meet the rest of the guys. Hopefully, that’ll be soon.”
The visit came shortly after the Mike Eruzione Team Shop opened in downtown Lake Placid. Mike planned the trip with his family more than a year ago.
“They get an opportunity to see a special place, which is clearly an important part in my life and an important part of my family’s life,” Mike said. “I was telling someone the other day, if we didn’t win, things would’ve changed drastically. For them to come back here and experience what that moment is like, what this place is like and how special this place is, maybe they’ll get to appreciate it.”
Mike said that his grandchildren don’t fully understand the magnitude of its relevance.
“They all play hockey, so they all have an understanding of the game,” Mike said. “I don’t think they have a full understanding of the impact on the country at that time, because we didn’t even know.”
As usual, when he walked into the Olympic Center on Thursday, he was instantly greeted by fans wanting to take a picture with him.
Mike and his 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey teammates have been described as heroes. For Mike’s family, he’s just “Dad” — or, as seven of his grandchildren call him, “Papa.”
“I used to always tell everybody when they were like, ‘What’s it like having Mike Eruzione as your father?'” Paul Eruzione said. “I would always say, ‘Well I used to see him reading the newspaper in his bathrobe every single morning.'”
Callinan said he was always known as “Big Mike” around their neighborhood when she was growing up.
It took his children some time to understand what the “Miracle on Ice” game meant to people during that time.
“As you grow, it kind of grows with you, and there is kind of different stages as you develop to understand,” Callinan said. “Now as adults, we’re at a place of understanding just culturally how important and significant it is. I used to always say you remember where you were during 9/11, you remember where you were when the Oklahoma City bombing happened, but this is always something people remember. No matter who you’re with or where you go, people have stories that are just positive.”
Along with touring the renovated Olympic Center, including the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena and Olympic Museum, the Eruziones visited the massively upgraded Mount Van Hoevenberg and the Olympic Jumping Complex.
During the Olympic Center tour, Mike stopped inside locker room No. 5 — the one the 1980 U.S. Olympic team was in. His grandchildren were even able to sit down in the same spot he did in 1980. The Eruziones were a bit surprised at how small the locker rooms were.
He then showed off a sign outside the locker room, on which was printed with the speech coach Herb Brooks gave before the famed contest — or, as Mike said, “supposedly gave.”
“I don’t remember it being that long,” he said with a chuckle.
The Eruziones then spent around 40 minutes on the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena ice. The youngsters showed off their best stick-handling moves, alongside their grandfather. They seemed more interested in playing the game they love than looking through the museum.
LeighAnn said it’s going to take them a long time to understand what that hockey game in 1980 truly meant, much like how it was for her.
“We grew up as kids going somewhere and people recognized him all the time and pull him aside, get excited and take photos and videos,” she said. “Now the kids are starting to realize that he is special to other people in a different way that is bigger than just Papa to them.”