Michael "Ritz, Rizzo" Eruzione (, Italian pronunciation: [erutˈtsjoːne]); born October 25, 1954) is an American former ice hockey player. He is best known as the captain of the 1980 Winter Olympics United States national team that defeated the Soviet Union in the famous "Miracle on Ice" game, in which he scored the game-winning goal.
Early life and playing career
Eruzione was born on October 25, 1954, to an Italian-American family in Winthrop, Massachusetts. His father was a bartender and worked in a sewage plant, and he grew up with many of his relatives living in the same home. He learned to play hockey for Youth Hockey of Winthrop as part of the GBYHL (Greater Boston Youth Hockey League). He graduated from Winthrop Senior High School in 1972, where he was captain of the varsity hockey team during his senior year. He then spent a year at Berwick Academy to fine-tune his hockey skills in a New England Prep environment. After leaving Berwick, Eruzione attended Boston University. He had initially opted for another school, but he switched to Boston after his coach forgot his name. While at Boston, he averaged over twenty goals a season for four years. BU coach Jack Parker called Eruzione "Pete Rose on skates".
Eruzione also played for Team USA at the 1975 and 1976 Ice Hockey World Championship tournaments. He then spent two seasons with the Toledo Goaldiggers of the International Hockey League, being named the Rookie of the Year in 1978 and leading the team to the Turner Cup championship in that year. After his second year in Toledo, Eruzione, who played Forward, was named the Captain of the 1980 Olympic hockey team, scoring the winning goal against the Soviets and helping the Americans win the gold medal against Finland. Eruzione's winning goal against the Soviet Union has become one of the most played highlights in American sports, and was voted the greatest highlight of all time by ESPN viewers in March 2008.
Due to Eruzione's having played under contract for the Goaldiggers prior to the 1980 Olympics, his amateur status was later brought under question by NHL Players' Association director Alan Eagleson. Eruzione rebutted the charges, saying "He's trying to take something away from me that we so richly deserved. He can't take away the memory. Is he going to try to convince everybody in the United States we lost?"
Post playing career
Eruzione was one of five players on the US Olympic team not drafted by an NHL team. Initially, he voiced his interest in playing professionally, mentioning the "New England Whalers" (by that time, renamed as the Hartford Whalers) as a possibility. He retired from competition after the Olympics, despite contract offers from the New York Rangers, stating that he'd reached the pinnacle of achievement already. He was a technical consultant for the 1981 film Miracle on Ice, and said "we all know the movie will never be able to equal what happened." Eruzione then became a television broadcaster, grabbing the microphone at Rangers and New Jersey Devils games and for the NHL on USA Network and The NHL on FOX, and going on to comment at five Olympic Games, working for both ABC and CBS. Eruzione said that he did not regret deciding not to play professional hockey, saying "after being a commentator and covering the NHL for a few years, I have no doubt I could play."
Eruzione returned to his alma mater of Boston University to be the assistant coach for the hockey team for three seasons, and where he currently works as Director of Special Outreach. He is a member of several halls of fame. Currently, he is a part-owner of the USHL Omaha Lancers franchise, which is located in Omaha, Nebraska, and a motivational speaker. He also helps the Winthrop High School ice hockey team during the winter.
He also became the head coach of his son's youth hockey team in his hometown in Winthrop, Massachusetts.
In 2002, Eruzione reunited with his 1980 Olympic teammates to light the Olympic cauldron for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
On January 19, 2007, Eruzione appeared on the new version of the game show I've Got a Secret. His secret was that he was the captain of the 1980 U.S. Men's Olympic hockey team, but he failed to stump the panel, as his secret was guessed by Billy Bean.
In 2012, Eruzione appeared at the Republican National Convention, and gave a short speech in support of nominee Mitt Romney.
Also in 2012, the Lawrence Larsen Hockey Rink in Eruzione's hometown of Winthrop, Massachusetts, was renamed the Larsen Hockey Rink at the Mike Eruzione Center.
In popular culture
In the 1981 made-for-TV movie about the 1980 U.S. Hockey team called Miracle on Ice, Eruzione is portrayed by actor Andrew Stevens.
In the 2004 Disney film entitled Miracle, he is portrayed by actor Patrick O'Brien Demsey. Demsey had played hockey at Fitchburg State College, but gave it up because of injuries and a desire to pursue an acting career. He saw the call for auditions the day before the auditions closed and won the part just days after his 24th birthday. To prepare for the role, he trained with the team Mike Eruzione coached at the time.
In the American Dad! episode "The Return of the Bling," Roger reveals he was part of the 1980 U.S. hockey team, under his persona "Chex LeMeneux." Stan does not believe him until Roger takes him to a team reunion at La Quinta Inns and Suites and Stan gets to see his team heroes Jim Craig, Mark Johnson and Eruzione. Eruzione provided his own voice for the episode.
In season four, episode 12 of the animated television show Archer, the main character, Sterling Archer responds to his mother's exclamation, "So then we will beat the Russians!" with the retort, "Give it up folks: Mike Eruzione!"
Mike Eruzione was the presenter in the 1981 pilot of Starcade, a game show featuring video games.
Awards and achievements
|All-ECAC Hockey First Team||1974–75|
|All-ECAC Hockey First Team||1975–76|
|All-ECAC Hockey Second Team||1976–77|