The captain of the 1980 “miracle on ice” turns in his account of that victory.
In a moment that’s lodged in the memories of millions, Eruzione recounts how a team of American amateur hockey players, a couple of them still teenagers, faced off against a veteran Russian squad made up of professionals. It was a long shot, reckoned the author, who captained the American Olympic team at Lake Placid, and scarcely believable when the scoreboard turned 4-3 in favor of his team. Forging them into a unit was the work of coach Herb Brooks, who had a curious method: “he made us a close-knit team by making himself everybody’s enemy.” When his team won, he went off alone, not joining in the celebration. It was strange behavior, but it worked, and, as Eruzione allows, nobody was better than Brooks at getting inside a player’s head and pushing the right buttons to achieve the desired results. Some of the book, charming but hardly indispensable, concerns the author’s childhood in a poor but aspirational Italian American family in Boston, where “my mother had a pot with sausage and gravy on the stove every day.” Students of athletic development will be interested in his observation that he came to excel in hockey because he played two other sports, baseball and football, that taught him transferrable skills. But the best part of the narrative is the you-are-there, blow-by-blow account of that Lake Placid game of 1980, told with verve and a sharp eye for the right detail, which served him well in a later career as a sports commentator: “Mark picked up the puck and hit Robby McClanahan on the left wing. His shot went wide. Back the Soviets came to our side. Alexander Golikov tried a backhander. Jimmy sticked it aside. The puck got tied up along the boards. Another whistle. And an incident.”
Fans of Olympic hockey will delight in Eruzione’s spirited memoir.