The Making of a Miracle

After 40 Years, Olympic Memory Remains Fresh In The Mind Of Mike Eruzione

With the score tied and about 11 minutes left in the game, Dave Christian, the forward converted to D, picked up the puck behind our net, moved to the left and passed up the wing to Buzzy Schneider.

At that point, Buzzy had been on the ice for 36 seconds, not that long. It would not have been crazy for him to carry the puck into the Soviet zone and try to make a play, and maybe score. A lot of players do that when the game is on the line: they stay on the ice, they want the puck, they want to make a play, make something happen, win the game. But if you trust your teammates, if you believe in one another, you don't really care who scores a goal. You just care about doing the right things so that your team scores the winning goal.

Buzzy skated across the red line, slapped the puck at the Soviet goalie, Vladimir Myshkin. John Harrington and Mark Pavelich stayed out and charged into the Soviet zone. But Buzzy raised his stick and turned to our bench. He cut his shift short to get fresh legs onto the ice. It was the smart play. And it was lucky for me.

I hopped over the boards to replace Buzz. The puck rebounded from Myshkin to the left boards. A Soviet defenseman went to retrieve it, but Harrington, who had just talked about working hard in the locker room, went hard on the forecheck. He slammed into the Russian, scrapping, not willing to let him have the puck. The puck squirted up the boards, where Pav raced after it. He slipped but managed to tip the puck. It was heading to the middle of the ice.

Just as I crossed the blue line.

I gathered the puck and turned toward the net, putting the puck on my forehand. I was in the high slot. I had a Soviet defenseman between me and Myshkin. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw both Harrington and Billy Baker crashing toward the net. The options came to me in a split second. If the defenseman came to me, I was going pass to Billy or John. If the defenseman stayed, I'd use him as a screen to block the goalie's view.

The defenseman dropped to his knees to block the shot. I had a screen. I had an opportunity to make a play.

Moving to my right, I pulled the puck a bit and fired it back the other way.

Toward the left post.

"Just get it on net," I said as I followed through on the shot.

I lost the puck. I couldn't see it. What I saw was the net. The back of the net suddenly bulged out, punched back by something. It took a moment to realize it. But then I saw the fans behind the goal leaping up out of their seats, hands in the air, and I knew.

The roar was deafening. My legs took over, and I just started running on my skates, high-stepping in the corner like some crazy drum major at a halftime show. In the stands, Jeep-that was my father-leaped out of his seat, his glasses went flying. "Oh, my God! That's it!" he shouted. My mother jumped up, and the two of them started kissing each other and hugging. They turned and hugged my cousin, Tony, and my high school football coach, Bob DeFelice, and everybody else who was within reach, fans they didn't even know.

Baker and Harrington got to me first. Then Pav and Dave Christian. It was so loud, I couldn't hear anything, the screaming and cheering at jet-plane decibels.

The first thought I had was "I have to get out of this corner fast or I'll be mobbed and trampled." Coming at me from the bench was a wave of white jerseys. The first bodies to arrive pinned me against the boards, the second group jumped into the red, white and blue mob. My old BU teammate Jack O'Callahan threw his arm around my neck, put me in a headlock. The rest were slapping me in the head and grabbing my jersey and each other.

*    *    *

By the time there was only 1:29 to play, the crowd was going insane, on their feet, cheering as loud as ever. "USA! USA! USA!" No one was sitting. Mark Johnson's line replaced us. Again, they lined up against the same guys: Petrov, Mikhailov, and Kharlamov. Herb held one finger up in the air to remind Mark, Dave, and Robby to send only one forward into the Soviet zone on the forecheck. The other two should stay back. Be smart. Be defensive.

I sat on the bench, my chest heaving after my shift. I was thinking that the Soviets would try to get the puck into our end and then pull Myshkin for an extra attacker on this shift. That's what you do when you're down by a goal with a minute left: you pull the goalie. If we had been trailing, Herb would have brought Jimmy [Craig] back to the bench and tried to get Mark Johnson on the ice as much as possible. We had a plan for this situation. But had the Soviets ever been down with a minute left? Had they ever had to pull their goalie?

The Soviets won the face-off. Petrov carried the puck to our blue line and slid the puck into the zone. It had barely enough steam to reach the net, and Jimmy just pushed it to the corner. But it counted as a shot on goal. In fact, it was incredible. It was the first shot on goal the Soviets had gotten in more than four minutes. This was the high-powered Soviet team that had averaged 10 goals a game. In the most crucial part of the game, we held the Soviets without a shot for almost five minutes.

We cleared the puck out; the Soviets threw it back in creating an offsides whistle. Only 1:12 to play now. Down at the far end of the ice, Myshkin was still in his goal. Mark, Dave and Robby stayed out for the face-off. They weren't gassed. They were young. They'd done all those Herbies in the dark in Norway. The Soviets? They stayed with Petrov, Mikhailov, and Kharlamov, the oldest guys they had.

Magic won the face-off, and Mike Ramsey, the teenager, cleared it into the Soviet zone. Petrov got to it and passed up to Kharlamov, who chipped the puck into our zone. Mikhailov got to the puck behind the net and centered to Petrov, but Petrov's backhander went wide. Ken Morrow got the puck on the right boards. Mikhailov checked him hard, but it didn't matter; Kenny had already chipped the puck out of our end.

My line was due up next, and I was itching to get out there. You always want to be on the ice for the last minute in a big game. But Herb left Mark, Dave, and Robby out there. He made the right call. The right guys were out there.

Thirty seconds left. Petrov got the puck at the red line and fired a slap shot at Jimmy-again from 70 feet away. It might as well have been from 170 feet away. Jimmy saw it all the way, came out, and kicked it to the boards. We didn't realize it then, but that would be the Soviets' final shot on goal of the game. In the final six minutes, they got three shots on Jimmy-one was actually a dump-in that barely amounted to a shot. The other two were slap shots by Petrov from outside the blue line. Herb had told us to think of the game in five-minute segments. In the last of those segments, the Russians didn't get a single shot from inside our zone.

I was standing up on the bench now, yelling to the guys on the ice. "Come on, get it out!" OC and Pav were shouting the same thing. We were all yelling, banging our sticks on the boards. Herb was just behind us, still staring with no hint of emotion.

Dave Silk got to the puck on the right boards and poked it out of the zone. Kharlamov picked it up, but he was out of gas. His legs were rubber. He dumped it into the corner. At a moment when the Soviets were desperate to score, their best skater and playmaker dumped the puck-he gave it back to us. Mark Johnson got to the puck behind the net and shoveled it into the right corner, where Mike Ramsey leveled another Russian. Mark pushed it back the other way, behind the net again, to the other corner. Mikhailov and Kharlamov were standing now, barely moving their feet, exhausted.

Ten seconds left. I wasn't ready to celebrate yet. We had scored against Sweden in the last minute. "Get it out! Get it out!" I was saying to myself. "It's not over until we get it out."

Ken Morrow got to the puck along the boards. On the broadcast, Al Michaels described the final play: "Morrow . . . up to Silk, five seconds left in the game . . . "
The puck slid over the blue line.

"Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" 

 

Issue: 
2020-02

Poll

Which American will score the most goals this season?
Auston Matthews
50%
Brock Boeser
0%
Johnny Gaudreau
0%
Max Pacioretty
6%
Patrick Kane
44%
Total votes: 18