Why Isn't Mike Eruzione Part of Team USA Hockey?

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2013

U.S. Olympic hockey hero Mike Eruzione.
U.S. Olympic hockey hero Mike Eruzione.Mark Wilson/Getty Images

He was perhaps the greatest hero of the biggest sports miracle since a little guy named David took a slingshot and a rock and felled heavyweight Goliath a little over three millenniums ago.

Mike Eruzione fired the shot that got through Soviet goaltender Vladimir Myshkin in the 1980 Winter Olympics halfway through the third period that gave the U.S. a 4-3 lead over the supposedly indestructible hockey team from the Soviet Union.

The Unites States, of course, held on to beat the Soviets and went on to win hockey gold in Lake Placid. It has not won a hockey gold medal since then.

The next Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russa in exactly one year. The Eruzione-led triumph still resonates in the United States, the Olympics and the sport of hockey, but the architect of the greatest shot in U.S. Olympic hockey history has had nothing to do with the U.S. Hockey Team since the gold medals were handed out in 1980.

Eruzione decided against trying to continue his hockey career by attempting to play in the NHL because he correctly reasoned that nothing he could do on the ice would top the gold medal-winning moment.

However, he has never been asked to contribute any of his thoughts or ideas to the U.S. Olympic Hockey team

"We have made a few overtures through the years," Eruzione told me in a Feb. 7 interview. "Nothing ever came of those discussions. That's OK. They can do what they want. That's their decision."

While the makeup of the U.S. Olympic hockey team is much different than it was in 1980 when Herb Brooks led a team of college All-Stars to take on the best team in the world, surely Eruzione would have something to contribute on what it takes to succeed at the Olympics.

The U.S. team is now made up of top American professionals from the NHL, but you would think Eruzione could contribute a few ideas on how to proceed.

Eruzione has never been asked in the 33 years since the 1980 triumph to help out the U.S. Olympic hockey team in any way.

Eruzione fully expects the NHL to allow its players to participate in the Sochi Olympics. That formal approval could come in the next few weeks.

"I would be very surprised if that didn't happen," Eruzione said. "The NHL gave it's approval when the games were in Salt Lake City (2002) and Vancouver (2010). The Russian players want to participate and it's the right thing to do."

Actually, NHL players have been included in the Winter Olympics since 1998.

TSN.ca insider Bob McKenzie reported the the NHL is very likely to allow its players to participate, saying it's "just short of a certainty."

For the Olympics beyond 2014, Eruzione does not think it would be the end of the world if the NHL chose not to participate.

"The Olympics would still go on and so would Olympic hockey," Eruzione said. "You would put together a team of the best players you could find and nobody would think those players would have a chance.

"But it's not about what others think. It's about how they would play and perform on that stage."

Eruzione works with Olympic sponsor Liberty Mutual Insurance, which helps give Olympic athletes the proper facilities for training while preparing for the games.

However, Eruzione could offer more specific help to the U.S. Olympic hockey team.

Brian Burke, the former general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and David Poile of the Nashville Predators were in charge of the U.S. Olympic hockey team in 2010.

Once the NHL formally commits to participating in the Sochi Olympics, a new U.S. leadership team will be named.

Consulting with Eruzione, a non-NHLer and a certified hockey hero, just might help the team put forth its best effort.

It's an idea worth considering.