Mike Eruzione, one of the most famous players in the history of hockey, soon will be a member of the Toledo Hockey Hall of Fame.
Two years before he became the hero of the upstart 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, Eruzione was a high-scoring forward for the Toledo Goaldiggers. Eruzione, who helped lead the Goaldiggers to the 1978 International Hockey League title, will be inducted into the hall of fame in January.
“Toledo is kind of my second home,” Eruzione said. “I’ve always felt part of the community there. I still feel a part of it. Those moments in Toledo helped develop me as a player. To get inducted with such great players makes it special.”
After graduating from Boston University in 1977, Eruzione began his pro career in Toledo and played two seasons for the Goaldiggers.
In 1980, Eruzione captained the U.S. Olympic hockey team and scored the game-winning goal Feb. 22, 1980, against the seemingly invincible Soviet Union in what would become known as the “Miracle on Ice.” Eruzione became the face of the young American team and helped seal the greatest upset in hockey history two days later when the team clinched the gold medal in a victory against Finland in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Two years earlier as a rookie, Eruzione played in 76 games for the Goaldiggers in 1977-78 and had 86 points on 30 goals and a team-high 56 assists in the regular season. He then added eight goals and 13 assists in 17 playoff games, leading the Goaldiggers to the Turner Cup championship.
The next year, Eruzione produced 27 goals and 45 assists in 74 games for Toledo.
Eruzione said former teammate Jim McCabe phoned him with the news of his induction.
“When McCabe told me, the first thing I said was, 'What took them so long? The Olympics were in 1980,'” he said. “It's a great honor to be bestowed. It's special. It doesn't happen without guys like McCabe and [Tony] Piroski and [Barry] Scully. Those guys made it special for me.”
Eruzione's goal and the upset of the Russians often are cited as the greatest sports moment of the 20th century. Eruzione already is a member of the United States Olympic Hall of Fame and was featured in the hit Disney movie Miracle.
Eruzione is now a motivational speaker and is the director of special outreach at his alma mater. Eruzione, who lives in Winthrop, Mass., said he plans on coming back for the induction ceremonies in Toledo next year.
“[Playing for the Goaldiggers] helped me a great deal in life and for the Olympic Games,” Eruzione said. “It helped round me out as a hockey player. It helped the maturity level, playing with those older players and with all the craziness and the fights and all that stuff. It helps prepare you for anything as a player. It helped build my confidence playing in Toledo.”
The Walleye organization spearheaded the creation of the Toledo Hockey Hall of Fame, which was established to honor individuals who shaped the city’s hockey heritage. The inaugural class was recognized in 2016.
The selection of the candidates is determined by the Toledo Hockey Hall of Fame committee, made up of former coaches, players, team historians, and media. Fans also have input during the voting phase.
The hall of fame event runs from Jan. 18-21 during ECHL all-star weekend. The hall of fame luncheon will be Jan. 20.
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