Beanpot Tournament
championship game pits
BU vs. Northeastern,
Monday, February 11,
8 p.m., at the FleetCenter
Week of 8 February 2002 · Vol. V, No. 22


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Five former Terrier hockey stars shoot for Winter Olympics gold

By Brian Fitzgerald

"It certainly is nice to see a few BU kids in the Olympics," muses Mike Eruzione, director of development for BU athletics. Eruzione is referring to former BU hockey players Tony Amonte, Chris Drury, Keith Tkachuk, Tom Poti, and Scott Young, all members of Team USA, which will compete in the XIX Olympic Winter Games February 8 to 24 in Salt Lake City.

  Chris Drury, the most honored hockey player in BU history. Photo by BU Photo Services

Eruzione (SED'77) doesn't need to be reminded what happened the last time the U.S. Olympic hockey team was flooded with Terriers. In 1980, he scored the winning goal against a heavily favored Russian team in the semifinal round -- the 3-2 U.S. victory was one of the biggest upsets in sports history. Then, in what was almost an anticlimax, the Americans defeated Finland, 4-2, to capture the gold medal. As team captain, Eruzione celebrated with a group of college kids and minor leaguers that included Jack O'Callahan (CAS'79), Jim Craig (SED'79), and Dave Silk (CAS'80, GSM'93).

Eruzione likes the Yanks' chances this year. "I think they're one of the favorites," he says. "Clearly it's a team that can win a medal." But what about the gold? Four years ago, at Nagano, Japan, the U.S. team fell 4-2 to Sweden in the first game and never recovered. "It all comes down to which goaltenders play well," he says. In 1998, the Czech team, led by goaltender Dominik Hasek, known as "the Dominator," shut out Russia in the final, 1-0, and grabbed the gold medal. Hasek was credited with carrying the Czechs almost single-handedly throughout the Olympics.


Forward Keith Tkachuk was a member of the 1991 Hockey East All-Rookie Team. Photo by BU Photo Services


"Also, for the U.S., the defense is a question mark," says Eruzione. "It's an older defensive group that's skating on a big sheet of ice -- these guys are going to have to cover a large area." Defensemen include 40-year-old Chris Chelios and 37-year-old Gary Suter. International hockey, played on a larger ice surface than in the NHL, requires quick, mobile defensemen. Poti, who plays with the Edmonton Oilers, fits that profile. He also has had some experience on European rinks, having represented the United States at two International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) championships. At the 1997 IIHF World Junior Championships, he recorded three points in six games to help his country win a silver medal.

Eruzione points out that quite a few U.S. players have Olympic experience, including Tkachuk and Young of the St. Louis Blues and Amonte of the Chicago Black Hawks. However, they aren't accustomed to playing on Olympic-sized rinks year-round. Regulation NHL rinks are 200 feet long and 85 feet wide, whereas the Salt Lake City rink will be the same length, but 15 feet wider. Also, the nets are placed about two feet further from the boards in Olympic competition than in the NHL.

  Tom Poti was a First-Team All-American defenseman at BU.

As was the case in the Olympics 22 years ago, Pittsburgh Penguins Coach Herb Brooks will coach the American team. One of his first actions at orientation camp was to show videotapes of the 1980 gold-medal team to inspire this year's players. "Do you believe in miracles?" asked announcer Al Michaels as the clock ticked down and the crowd began to roar. The memories flooded back instantly for those who were old enough to remember. Tkachuk was a seven-year-old playing street hockey when his mother called him inside to watch the game. "I'm not surprised Herb did that," says Eruzione. "He's a great motivator. He'll do anything he can to remind them of what can happen if they play at the level they're capable of playing. He let them know that the U.S. did it before, and there's no reason why it can't be done again." Prior to the 1980 game against the Russians, Brooks gave a stirring speech that included the phrases "You were born to be a player" and "You were meant to be here."


Chicago Black Hawks captain and two-time NHL All-Star Tony Amonte. Photo by Rudy Winston


Drury knows what it's like to win a national championship, having pitched for the 1989 Little League World Series-winning Trumbull, Conn., team, captured the NCAA hockey title as a Terrier in 1995, and won the Stanley Cup in 2001 as a member of the Colorado Avalanche. He was only three years old in 1980, but he was impressed with the "Miracle on Ice" footage. "After seeing that," he recently told the Sporting News, "it only made me want to play for my country and Herb Brooks even more."

If being coached by the same man who guided the 1980 team isn't enough to motivate this year's players, what about some other good omens, such as the fact that both teams have a BU Beanpot Hall of Famer (O'Callahan and Amonte). In addition, the 2002 Salt Lake semifinals will be played February 22 -- the 22nd anniversary of the U.S.-Russia game, and the gold medal will be won on February 24, the same date it was awarded in 1980. Do you believe in numerology?

  St. Louis Blues forward Scott Young also played in the 1992 Olympics.

Eruzione, who joined his 1980 teammates in a reunion game against a team of NHL legends in Los Angeles on February 1 as part of the 2002 NHL All-Star Game festivities, points out that American teams have a 14-game Olympic unbeaten streak on home ice -- the United States also won a gold medal in 1960 at Squaw Valley. "It helps to play in your own country," he says. "You don't have to travel much, and when you step on the ice, everyone in the crowd is on your side. It worked twice for the U.S. Maybe it will work a third time."



8 February 2002

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