- John Buccigross, SportsCenter anchor
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One 30-foot wrist shot with a wooden stick can take you a long way. Even if that shot is wired in little Lake Placid, N.Y.
For Mike Eruzione, his 30-foot twisted wrister versus the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics took him from Winthrop, Mass., to the White House, and into the pages of sporting history as the man who scored the game-winning goal in what turned out to be, to many, the biggest sporting moment of the 20th century.
And while that one shining moment when a group of young, carefree, excitable American boys vanquished a group of older, dour Communists took Eruzione places, it didn't make him McMansion wealthy nor immune to the vagaries of capitalism.
And so everything in Mike Eruzione's musty hockey bag, except his gold medal and Olympic ring, are up for sale. The white No. 21 USA jersey he wore to beat the Soviet Union, the blue jersey he wore to win gold against Finland, and the stick he used for his Mark Messier-like left skate wrist shot that proved miraculous and life changing.
But wait, there's more, as we will find out. The auction will be held in late February around the anniversary of the various 1980 Olympic moments. Heritage Auction House of Dallas will run the auction. The big media push will begin in January, but Eruzione gave ESPN.com this exclusive interview to explain why.
This is not the first time a member of the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team has sold memorabilia. Mark Wells developed a genetic disease that attacked his spinal cord discs, so he sold his gold medal for $40,000, which turned out to be far below market value. The Connecticut collector then turned around in September 2010 and sold Wells' medal in auction for $310,000. I was recently told Steve Christoff has sold his gold medal. Ken Morrow sold his Soviet-worn jersey for $104,000 before auction fees. His game-worn gloves went for $6,000. Heritage Auction House is hoping, as is Eruzione, that his take will be at least well more than a million dollars.
Bucci: Why are you doing this?
Eruzione: It's something I've thought about for the last couple of years after hearing Paul Henderson sold his jersey from the 1972 Summit Series for $1.2 million. When I heard that, I thought, "Wow, what a great opportunity this is to sell my memorabilia and give some money back to my family, my kids, my grandson." I've got some ideas with what I want to do with the money. I will be more specific closer to the auction. Fortunately, I don't need the money to help me. I've done very well over the last 32 years and hopefully will continually do well in the future with appearances. I'm not broke! I'm not doing this for my own purpose or gain; in fact, it's not for my purpose at all. I think I can do a lot of good for others with what I get. My first grandson, Michael, was born a week ago. I've thought about his future and the cost of tuition for my daughter and things like that. My daughter, Leigh Ann, is a social worker and her husband is a detective; my older son, Michael, manages apartment buildings; and my younger son, Paul, recently got his first job as a graphic designer.
Bucci: What are you selling, and is it a package deal?
Eruzione: For now, it's all separate items. The stick that I scored the winning goal against the Soviet Union, the jersey from the Soviet game, the jersey from the Finland game, my cowboy hat, the warmup suit I wore on the podium, my gloves, my shoulder pads, my opening ceremony outfit and my sweatsuit that I tried out for the team in at the Olympic festival are among the items.
Bucci: What about the gold medal?
Eruzione: It will not be sold. It's the ultimate thing. The gold medal will never be sold as long as I'm alive. If something happens to me and my kids/grandkids want to do something with it, hopefully it's for the right reasons.
Bucci: What piece do the auction people feel will be the most valuable?
Eruzione: The Soviet Union game jersey. The opening bid is a million dollars. Then the Finnish jersey. They are also bullish about the podium sweatsuit that I wore.
Bucci: What kind of person do you want purchasing the items? Do you care?
Eruzione: I do care. I hope it's somebody that cherishes the moment and understands that it isn't just a sporting event, it's a piece of history. The auction people think a person might buy it that has never bought a sports memorabilia piece in their life. They might get someone who buys it and donates it to the Smithsonian. I hope someone buys it that appreciates it as much as I did and feels they have a part of American history.
Bucci: It is emotional or stressful to part with this stuff?
Eruzione: No, not at all. The stuff was in my attic sitting inside my original equipment bag from 1980. It is was the medal that would be different. That would be hard to deal with. It's equipment that means a lot to me but to share things is not bad either and to generate income for the causes that I will announce later it just made sense. I was concerned with the perception. I asked Jack Parker about it and asked what he thought about it. He responded, "Good for you." That was the turning point for me. If he would have said, "I think you're making a big mistake," I would have hesitated. My friends and teammates have all been supportive. I've talked with Jack O'Callahan and Robby McClanahan, and sent a text to every guy on the team, and not one of my teammates objected. In fact, they are curious what the stuff will go for and you might soon see more of them do the same thing with their stuff. I am 100 percent comfortable. I am concerned with the public's perception but I think people will come to understand why I'm doing it.
Bucci: I understand Mario Lemieux called and offered to buy your Soviet Union game jersey?
Eurzione: Yeah, Mario offered me 100 bucks for my jersey. And my buddy, the kicker Robby Gould, offered to me a couple more strokes on the golf course.
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Unlikely 1980 Olympic hero Mike Eruzione is not selling off some of his famous memorabilia because he needs the money, he tells John Buccigross.