COLUMN: Everyone has a ‘Miracle’ story


Talking with the media prior to the Baron Cub Dinner on Aug. 5, Mike Eruzione said not only do people of older generations still embrace the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, but he gets letters from young kids who have heard the story of how they beat the Russians or saw the Disney movie and are inspired by the group.

In fact, a recurring theme shared as Eruzione, Ken Morrow, Craig Patrick and Phil Bourque talked with the media and on the main stage inside the Finnegan Fieldhouse on the campus of the Franciscan University of Steubenville involved the stories people have about remembering where they were, and how younger generations have learned about and embraced the team’s story, either through books, documentaries or, of course, the memorable 2004 film “Miracle” that stared Kurt Russell.

Bourque shared his Miracle story, detailing how he pulled over to the side of the road when the game came in on the radio as a high school player on his way home from a game.

He said the group helped inspire what ended up being a 13-year National Hockey League career during which he earned two Stanley Cup rings with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

While the story of how the team made an impact on me is not nearly as good, I’ll share it anyway.

I was born in 1994, some 14 years after that February Friday in Lake Placid, N.Y. The movie, however, came out when I was 9.

My grandparents, as we customarily would on a Friday night after a long week of fourth grade, ordered me and my three siblings some pizza and had us watch a movie.

The movie that particular night was a new sports release from Disney my pap wanted to buy on pay-per-view about a moment he remembered. It was “Miracle.”

I demanded to watch the movie again. And again. My brother and I fashioned our own hockey sticks out of household items (eventually we got real ones), and, brothers being brothers, recreated the scene where guys from Boston and Minnesota fight at practice, shall we say, a few times, and my interest in the sport was established.

Fast forward a few years, and that initial interest in the sport that came from that movie night at my grandparents led to me being enthusiastic about going to a Wheeling Nailers game for the first time to see the sport in person, which eventually morphed into being in the press box at every Nailers game writing blog posts and stories for anyone who would run them, simply because I was now obsessed with the sport.

Ultimately, that started my career in this profession, which led me to the staff at the Herald-Star.

It’s impossible to say for sure, but one could infer that maybe I would have never started writing without that initial interest sparked by watching the dramatization of the 1980 team’s story.

The path to get here certainly would have been different.

So, their story affected someone born some 14 years after the fact, who didn’t know about the details until 24 years later.

What Ken Morrow said about the impact of their accomplishment growing over time, not dwindling, was spot on.

Back to that original movie night: It’s ironic it was my pap who ordered the movie. Even today when I turn a hockey game on at his house he groans and mumbles how much he dislikes watching the sport. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I get it.

But, remember, he picked the movie.

The game against the Soviet Union, he would later tell me, was the only hockey game he ever really remembered watching until I became a fan and took over his TV, watching NHL Network until the wee hours of the morning as a teenager.

When members of that team, or those who fondly remember it, say that it was more than a hockey game, as cliche as that is, it’s true.

You didn’t have to be a fan of the sport, even know what it was, or, in my pap’s case, have ever watched it before, or, in my case, even have been born yet for it to have some impact.

That’s what makes it so special.

Look no further than the Tokyo Olympics, which ended Aug. 8. The television ratings and interest were down, and there were numerous online debates about anthem protests and political statements from American athletes. There was a lot of division. It shows just how different things are now – and how special that one moment of national unity was.

During the event, Eruzione said the country today needs another 1980, another unifying event that brings us together.

He’s right, and hopefully it happens soon so new generations can draw the same kind of inspiration from it we have from the Miracle.


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