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Published: Wednesday, 5/5/2010

Eruzione is a caretaker of Olympic glory

Mike Eruzione has a job. He works as a fund-raiser and public relations emissary for his alma mater, Boston University.

But his real gig is being Mike Eruzione, keeper of the flame. It is a job he didn't seek out, but one to which he has given his all for three decades.

Eruzione, of course, scored the winning goal in the United States' Olympic ice hockey victory over the Soviet Union in 1980. This was the cold war decided on a cold slab of ice in Lake Placid. It was the Russians' men against our boys.

Whether it was this Miracle on Ice, or whether it was Jesse Owens figuratively spitting in Hitler's face in Berlin during the 1936 Summer Games, one of them was the single greatest moment in American sports history. It's your call.

The Miracle on Ice - a 4-3 semifinal victory over the Soviets that was followed by a 4-2 gold medal win over Finland - was Eruzione's moment, his hard shot rocketing under the Russian goalie's right armpit and his high-stepping celebration on skates before being swallowed by a mob of

teammates still as vivid in our mind's eye as the instant it happened.

It was his and our magical moment and, in the words of a Boston writer, Eruzione has become its caretaker.

"I don't mind that description," Eruzione said during a phone conversation. "Clearly, as captain of the team I've probably represented the team and the story most often. I was in Arizona for an appearance last week with three of my [Olympic] teammates and those guys were blown away by the reaction.

"I deal with it quite a bit but, yeah, it still amazes me a little after all these years. It's a moment that people remember in such a good way. It didn't just touch our lives; it touched the lives of a nation. I guess I am the caretaker and I'm proud to do that."

Before Eruzione was a national hero he was a local hero, and the locality was Toledo, where he returns tomorrow night as guest speaker for the Italian-American Sports Club's annual scholarship dinner at the SeaGate Centre.

"I always love going back to Toledo," he said. "I was treated so well there as a player. It's a part of my life that I always feel fortunate to look back on."

Eruzione played for two seasons with the old Goaldiggers and was the IHL rookie of the year in 1977-78 while helping lead the team to a Turner Cup championship. All told, Eruzione skated for Toledo in 170 games, posting 66 goals and 116 assists for legendary coach Ted Garvin.

"Teddy was a character and we had a team of characters," Eruzione said. "I'll probably have a few Teddy stories to tell [tomorrow] night. But the real treat for me is that a couple of my old teammates, Tony Piroski and Jim McCabe, are going to be at the dinner. That'll be fun. [The late] Paul Tantardini, of course, can't be there. Tanner was one of my favorite players and friends. I would have enjoyed being with him. I remember them all. I could go down the whole lineup. What a group of guys."

After the Diggers' 1978-79 season, Eruzione went right to the Olympic tryout camp. The rest is history. And he'll return to Toledo once again tomorrow night as this history's caretaker.

Contact Blade sports columnist

Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398.



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