GRAND RAPIDS – No one thought the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team had even a remote chance to win the gold medal. But it did, and that “Miracle on Ice” moment is one of the most revered in sports history.
“No one in the whole world thought we could win,” said Mike Eruzione, who captained the famed team during the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. “But, we worked hard, and we sacrificed.”
Eruzione is looking forward to sharing his team’s story at The Ferris Foundation’s 14th annual Foundation for Excellence Benefit on Friday, Nov. 2. The event, at the JW Marriott in Grand Rapids, supports student scholarships and merit grants for faculty and staff initiatives that advance the university’s mission.
“I will give people a better understanding of what it took for our team to win,” Eruzione said. “Hopefully, they’ll find that a lot of the challenges we, as a team, faced are some of the same challenges they face now.”
Eruzione’s message of teamwork and the steps it takes to be successful is a popular one on the motivational-speaker circuit. He makes anywhere from 20 to 40 appearances each year, and said he doesn’t tire of sharing his team’s story.
“I see the joy it brings to a lot of people,” he said. “I realize this was special to the entire country. In the Olympic Games, a whole nation is behind you.”
Eruzione scored the game-winning goal in the U.S. team’s monumental upset win over the unbeaten Soviet Union team to advance to the medal round. His team defeated Finland to capture the gold. The underdog story was immortalized in the 2004 film “Miracle” and named Top Sports Moment of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated, among other accolades.
Following the team’s triumph, Eruzione worked as a sports commentator for Madison Square Garden and provided commentary for network television coverage of several Olympic Games.
The Winthrop, Mass. native today works as director of special outreach at his alma mater, Boston University. His allegiance to BU prompted him to root for the Ferris men’s ice hockey team during its run earlier this year to the Frozen Four and the national championship game against BU rival Boston College.
“I followed Ferris State through the whole tournament,” Eruzione said. “BU has a very intense rivalry with Boston College. I was rooting for Ferris State. They made a great run, and it was great for collegiate hockey to see a team make it to that level that hadn’t been there before.”
Eruzione served as assistant coach of the BU Terriers team, but has decided instead to “help out once in a while” so he can enjoy playing more golf and focus on other commitments. He remains involved in fundraising events for the Olympic Committee, as well as several charitable and youth organizations in his hometown, where he still lives with his wife.
He is anxiously awaiting the arrival of his first grandchild and is happy that his daughter, who is due in December, lives in the same neighborhood. So do his two sons, his father, his mother-in-law and a cousin.
“When our family gets together, there are about 100 of us,” he said.
Eruzione also is looking forward to seeing his Olympic hockey team family in November, when some members will gather in Chicago for a sports memorabilia show appearance.
“There will be lots of laughs, jokes and insults,” he said.
Foundation board chair Kevin Cross said Eruzione’s appearance at the gala is exciting.
“Our theme is ‘Growth through Collaboration,’ and I cannot think of a better illustration of great collaboration than the teamwork of the 1980 Olympic hockey team led by Mike Eruzione,” Cross said. “Mike used his leadership skills to take a group of individual college stars and mold them into a great team that was able to beat the best in the world. That is growth through collaboration.”
The benefit showcases ways that the university is impacting lives and strengthening Michigan’s future through education and outreach. Since it was established in 1991, The Ferris Foundation has increased endowment funds to more than $35 million.
About 500 people attended the 2011 event, which raised about $73,000 for The Ferris Foundation for Excellence Scholarship program and Exceptional Merit Grant Awards for faculty and staff.
The black-tie-optional event begins with cocktails and a VIP reception for sponsors with Eruzione at 5:30 p.m. Dinner commences at 7 p.m., followed by the program at 8 p.m. Eruzione is scheduled to speak at 9 p.m.
Individual seats are $250 per person. In addition, a range of sponsorship opportunities are available.