Twenty-two years after leading the U. S. hockey team to an upset victory over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympic games, team captain and Boston University graduate Mike Eruzione returned to the Olympic stage last Saturday, lighting the cauldron at Salt Lake City with 17 of his former teammates.
“They called me up six months ago and told me that I would be doing something on that day, so keep it open,” said Eruzione, who graduated from the School of Education in 1977. “They contacted the rest of the team later, but we still didn’t know what was going on. It wasn’t until the night of the opening ceremony that we found out.”
Eruzione was joined in lighting the cauldron by three fellow BU alumni: Dave Silk (College of Arts and Sciences, ’80), Jack O’Callahan (CAS, ’79) and Jim Craig (SED, ’79).
The whole team had gotten together for the first time since the 1980 games a few weeks earlier for an exhibition game organized by Allstate Insurance in Los Angeles, Eruzione said. Even though two people couldn’t make it to Salt Lake City, the team has remained close over the years, he said.
“It’s a real close-knit bunch of guys,” he said. “We’ve maintained our friendships. I’m pretty close with the BU guys; I see Dave and Jack a lot, and I run into Jim, too.”
The mystique of the “Miracle on Ice” has been enduring, Eruzione said. Their victory against Russia was named the greatest sports moment of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated, and an HBO documentary on the team came out last February.
“Over the years, there’s been many events commemorating the team, and every Olympics shows scenes from the past,” Eruzione said. “I think it was just a moment that so many people felt a part of; it wasn’t the Red Sox or the Patriots or the Lakers or the Pistons, it was the United States. It was the U.S. as a part of something everyone really enjoyed.”
Despite the changing and uncertain political backdrop of this Olympics, Eruzione said spectators would retain their interest in the Games.
“I still think people want to see our athletes as Americans perform well,” he said. “It might not be as intense for the spectators without the other interests, but the archrivals for the athletes are still the competition. That’s the enemy.”
Eruzione, who will be at the games for their duration, praised Salt Lake City’s commitment to security and other hosting duties.
“It’s amazing how much enthusiasm is all over the streets,” he said. “By the time it’s over, these could go down as one of the best Olympics ever.”
Eruzione will be spending much of his time at the Games spreading the word and fundraising for BU’s athletic program, for which he is director of development.
“BU gives me freedom to do all sorts of stuff like this, which works out well for both of us,” Eruzione said. “The more visible I am, the more visible BU is.”
The legacy of the 1980 Olympic team is a definite incentive for recruits to attend BU, according to Eruzione.
“People come in and see the Olympians, the Hall of Famers, the gold medals — it has an impact on recruitment,” he said.