The U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team isn’t exactly the odds-on favorite to win a gold medal in Torino, Italy, this month. That distinction belongs to defending champ Canada. But Mike Eruzione, director of development for BU athletics and a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, likes the Americans’ chances — and not just because the squad has former Terrier players Chris Drury, Rick DiPietro, and Keith Tkachuk.
Eruzione (SED’77) enjoys the role of underdog. He knows it well. He and three other former BU players — Jack O’Callahan (CAS’79), Jim Craig (SED’79), and Dave Silk (CAS’80, MET’92, GSM’93) — were part of the legendary U.S. Olympic hockey team that shocked the world in 1980 by defeating Russia, a team that had been unbeaten in Olympic competition since 1968. In a historic moment immortalized in the 2004 film Miracle, Eruzione scored the winning goal against Russia, and the United States went on to triumph over Finland to capture the gold medal.
Since then, the Yanks have won the silver twice, in 1994 and 2002. Although the gold has eluded the United States, Eruzione says it would be a mistake to underestimate this year’s U.S. team, whose assistant coach is Boston Bruins head coach Mike Sullivan (SMG’90), a former Terrier.
“First of all, it’s an awfully good hockey team,” Eruzione says. “It’s a team in transition — it’s the first Olympics for a lot of the players, so that’s part of the reason people don’t give them much of a chance to win the gold. I think a key for them is going to be their scoring ability. The question is, can they generate enough offense against some pretty offensive teams, such as the Canadians, the Czechs, and the Swedes?”
Eruzione believes that much of the game comes down to goaltending, especially in a short tournament like the Olympics. Vying for the position are Rick DiPietro (CAS’01), John Grahame, and Robert Esche, but no decision has yet been made on the starter. Eruzione doesn’t give credence to the talk in hockey circles that at 24, DiPietro, chosen first in the 2000 NHL draft by the New York Islanders, is too young to be thrust into the international spotlight. “Ricky has always performed very well in big games, whether it was the Beanpot or the World Junior Championships,” he says. “That’s the way he’s always been. He’s a very mature goaltender, and he’s playing well beyond his years in terms of his age.”
Keith Tkachuk (CAS’96), who is now a left wing for the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, is a veteran of the 1992, 1998, and 2002 Olympics. “Keith has always been a leader in the locker room, and he’s a force to be reckoned with on the ice with his physical play and his drive to the net,” says Eruzione. “He’s a strong-willed and committed player.”
And then there’s Chris Drury (CAS’98), the most honored player in BU history. The winner of the 1998 Hobey Baker Award, given to the best player in college hockey, Drury helped his Terrier teams to the 1995 national championship, four Beanpot titles, and two Hockey East titles. He also won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Colorado Avalanche and was on the silver medal–winning 2002 Olympic hockey team. “Chris has been on the big stage many times,” Eruzione says. “When the smoke has cleared at the end, if this team wins a medal, don’t be surprised if he scores one of the big goals.”
As a U.S. Olympic Committee member, Eruzione will head to Torino on February 22, in time for the quarterfinals, semifinals, and medal games. He is proud of the fact that BU has three alumni on the team — only Lake Superior State has an equal number of former players going for the gold this year. In all, BU has sent 24 players to the Olympics, 18 of them coached by Jack Parker (SMG’68, Hon.’97).
“This speaks volumes for Jack Parker,” Eruzione says. “It says a lot, not only about the caliber of player he brings to BU, but also about his ability to help them develop so they get to the next level and represent their country.”
The United States faces off against Latvia on Wednesday, February 15, at 9 p.m. For a complete Olympic men’s hockey game schedule, click here.