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‘Miracle’ Men: ‘saratoga living’ Chats With 1980 Winter Olympic Hockey Heroes Mike Eruzione And Jim Craig (Exclusive)

'saratoga living' asked Team USA's men's hockey legends to relive the single greatest sporting moment in American history.

The US men's hockey team celebrating, following their "Miracle On Ice" semifinals win at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid. (Lake Placid Olympic Museum)

There are certain moments in everyone’s life that are, literally, exactly like snapshots, frozen in time in our memories: When I received the call that I got the job that changed the trajectory of my career; when I saw the airplane fly into the second tower in lower Manhattan that devastating, fateful September morning; when my sister gave birth to her first born, my nephew and godson; when the person I loved told me I was loved, too. But, right up there with those unforgettable events in my life, was the US men’s hockey team’s seemingly impossible David-and-Goliath victory over the mighty USSR’s hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid. I remember, mere seconds after the victory, how my entire family simultaneously burst into joyful, delirious tears, shouting and jumping up and down and how my own skin trembled to the touch. It was, truly, unbelievable, and I knew this was a moment for the ages and filed it away forever.

So, here we are, four decades later—almost to the very day of that singular athletic, patriotic achievement—when I’ve been given the chance to revisit this gargantuan, epic memory with two of its leading participants, US Team Captain Mike Eruzione, who improbably scored the winning goal, and Goaltender Jim Craig, who shut down the powerful Soviet onslaught to end the game and send the American hockey team directly to the history books.

Not at all surprisingly, these days, both Eruzione and Craig are red-hot commodities as public and motivational speakers throughout the country. But as their answers that follow illustrate, they’ll never tire of reliving the greatest sport moment of their lives.

Given our country’s current climate, I wonder if, as Americans, there’ll ever be another time when we all come together to celebrate the actions of a band of fearless young men on skates, who not only defied the impossible odds and triumphed, but also did nothing less than inspire an entire nation.

I still tremble thinking about that glorious moment in American history. So, yeah, I must still believe in miracles.

Mike Eruzione

Team USA Captain Mike Eruzione was part of the 1980 Olympic team that not only defied the odds and triumphed over the Soviets, but also did nothing less than inspire an entire nation.(Nezih Payzin)

What’s the No.1 question people ask you?
Usually, it’s “What was it like to win a gold medal?”

What’s the most surprising thing about the “Miracle On Ice” game that most people don’t know?
A lot of people didn’t know that if we lost on Sunday to Finland, we could’ve come in fourth place and not even won a medal. So the Soviet game was a big game, but Finland was even bigger.

Is it strange to perpetually be asked about an event that literally occurred four decades ago?
No, not really, because even 40 years later, we realize how special that moment was for so many people and with the movie, Miracle, there’s a new generation that realizes and understands what that moment was and what it still means.

Who, if any, of your teammates do you still keep in touch with?
Mostly Jack O’Callahan, but the entire team does try to get together a couple of times a year.

If Hollywood were to remake the movie Miracle, which Hollywood A-list actor would play you?
Maybe Matt Damon; he’s from Boston, too.

What are your memories of Lake Placid? Did the citizens treat you guys well?
It’s an amazing place; people treated us like kings, and when I go back now, I still find it to be special and always welcoming with open arms.

Is there a moment you would change from the 1980 Winter Olympic Games?
I don’t think I would change anything; it was an amazing experience, athletically, and was the proudest moment of my life to win a gold medal. And to do it in our own country in such a great little place like Lake Placid is pretty amazing.

Team USA Goaltender Jim Craig shut down the powerful Soviet onslaught to end the game and send the American hockey team directly to the history books.

Jim Craig

What’s the No.1 question people ask you?
People don’t normally ask me a question; they tell me where they were and who they were with when they saw us win. They’ll say, “That was the greatest moment; it meant way more than just a hockey game—I was with my father.” They tell me how they can remember where they were and why it was meaningful to them and sometimes, I hear how it changed their lives. It’s amazing to hear how we were able to uplift people in a time when our country needed hope.

What’s the most surprising thing about the “Miracle On Ice” game that most people don’t know?
That we played seven games, not one. In other words, most people think it was one game against the Russians. It was a whole series of games that led to the semifinal game in which we beat the Russians. For the finals, we won against Finland, and the game was tape delayed; it wasn’t live. People vividly remember the game against the Soviets, but that was just one accomplishment on the way to winning the gold medal. If we didn’t show up prepared for the gold-medal game, there was a good chance we wouldn’t have medaled at all and no one would’ve remembered the significance of the game against the Russians.

Is it strange to perpetually be asked about an event that literally occurred four decades ago?
If it was just a hockey game to people, then, yes, but it was more than a hockey game. To the people who watched it—they watched it because they were Olympic fans, not necessarily hockey fans. They watched it because of what the team accomplished and what they felt about being American. There was a lot of turmoil going on, and the country was in the midst of a crisis of confidence. This Olympic gold medal win helped instill confidence in America and what we stood for.

Who, if any, of your teammates do you still keep in touch with?
All of us keep in touch with one another, and lately, we’ve been able to get together more often.

If Hollywood were to remake the movie Miracle, which Hollywood A-list actor would play you
Eddie Cahill did a great job in Miracle, so I’d have him be the actor for the remake again.

What are your memories of Lake Placid? Did the citizens treat you guys well?
Lake Placid is hallowed ground—a place where people of all sports go to make their dreams come true. The people of Lake Placid are very special and always will be to me. It’s amazing now, going back, thinking of how such a small town in the Adirondacks could provide a world stage for the best athletes in the world. The town has continued to keep its charm, and the people are always happy and welcoming.

Is there a moment you would change from the 1980 Winter Olympic Games?
The only thing I’d like to have done was to have more time to enjoy watching the other Olympians compete and enjoy the festivities. We played every other day from when the Games started until when they were over. We even had a game before the opening ceremonies. We were competing so much, and it would’ve been nice to savor the victory longer and in the moment.

‘saratoga living’ will relive the Miracle on Ice victory Wednesday, February 26th at Putnam Place, which will replay the historic game in its entirety. A limited number of signed copies of this commemorative issue signed by Jim Craig are still available.

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Richard Pérez-Feria

Richard Pérez-Feria is the President, CEO and Editor in Chief of saratoga living. He was the former Editor in Chief of ELLIMAN, Now It Counts, VEGAS INC, HudsonMOD, People en Español, 7x7 and many others.

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