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Saturday, February 22, 2003

"Eruzione shoots...he scores!!!"

Today is the 23rd anniversary of the most titanic upset in Olympic team sports: the victory of the U.S. hockey team over the Soviets. It certainly made an impression on this eleven year old and his friends, who were playing a lot of field hockey in the gym at the time. "I'm Mike Eruzione!" "I'm Dave Silk!" "I'm Mike Ramsey!" "I'm Jim Craig!" Fortunately, no one got too badly bruised.

I have it on tape, but I hope it comes to DVD. I still get chills as Al Michaels calls the Eruzione goal. Montreal Canadien Hall of Fame goatender Ken Dryden was in the booth as the color commentator, and he was clearly caught up in the moment, too.

The real hero of the game was goalie Jim Craig, who turned away 38 shots from what was probably the greatest Olympic team ever assembled.

Actually, the Russians were one of the great teams, period. Just ask the Canadians, whose team of NHL all-stars barely eked out a 4-3-1 victory in an unsurpassed eight game hockey war in 1972, better known as the Super Series. Paul Henderson's goal in Game Eight has a mythic quality in Canada that's hard to describe to Americans. Think Bill Mazeroski's seventh game home run in the 1960 World Series against the dread Yankees, combined with Joe Montana's last minute drive in the 1989 Super Bowl, wrapped up in Eruzione's goal in 1980, and you have something of the flavor of it.

Now, maybe, you have a feel for the magnitude of the upset of the Soviet team in 1980 at the hands of a bunch of American collegians.

Of course, the world changed radically after that, and now Russian players are commonplace in the NHL. A little over seventeen years later, I cheered like a maniac when future Hall of Fame defenseman Slava Fetisov, a member of the 1980 Soviet team, hoisted the Stanley Cup over his head as a member of the mighty Detroit Red Wings.

But, with all due respect to Slava, I still glory in the 1980 victory. As, I suspect, do all Americans who remember it.

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