Mike Eruzione's sensational winning goal against the Soviet hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympics will forever be remembered as the "Miracle On Ice" — perhaps the greatest sporting moment of the 20th century.
More than a generation later, the 58-year-old Eruzione is parting with his iconic No. 21 USA jersey, hockey stick and other Olympic paraphernalia. Dallas-based Heritage Auctions is selling the items in New York on Feb. 23, the day after the 33rd anniversary of the historic game.
The white jersey alone is expected to fetch more than $1 million US, but sports memorabilia experts think it could go considerably higher.
"It's history as much as it is sports," said Phil Castinetti, owner of Sportsworld in Saugus, Mass., which bills itself as New England's largest sports memorabilia store.
"It was back when the Americans were all amateurs and playing against a professional Soviet team that was supposedly unbeatable. It was the Cold War. ... The Americans were big underdogs. It was a worldwide event that was incredible," Castinetti said.
The auction record for any piece of hockey memorabilia is $1.2 million, set in 2010 for the Team Canada jersey Paul Henderson wore when he scored the winning goal in the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviets.
Unlike Olympians of today, Eruzione, who was captain of his team in Lake Placid, N.Y., received no lucrative endorsements. But he said he's not hurting financially and is selling the prized items to help out his three adult children and grandson.
"I thought this would be a great little nest egg for them for their future with their kids," he said in a telephone interview, adding the memorabilia had languished in his USA hockey bag in the attic of his Winthrop, Mass., home, ever since that memorable day.
Eruzione said the auction proceeds from his collection will also benefit his Winthrop Foundation founded in his hometown, just outside Boston.
The team beat the Soviets 4-3 after Eruzione scored what would be the winning goal with 10 minutes left in the semifinal game. Two days later, the team clinched the gold when it beat Finland. The Soviets won the silver medal.
Christoff's gold medal, too
"As long as I'm alive, the gold medal won't be sold," said Eruzione, who is director of special outreach at Boston University and a partner in a nutritional supplement business that includes several other ex-Olympians, including gymnasts Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner.
"The medal is what it's all about," Eruzione said. "That's what we played for."
But the sale does include "Miracle On Ice" forward Steve Christoff's gold medal, estimated to bring $400,000. He was the only player on the gold medal team to score multiple points and the first player from the "Miracle On Ice" team to be drafted and go to the NHL, playing for the Minnesota North Stars and the Los Angeles Kings.
It's estimated that Eruzione's hockey stick will sell for $50,000. In addition, he is selling the blue jersey he wore when he won the gold, estimated at $200,000, and the glove and warm-up suit he wore to the podium when he accepted the gold, both estimated to bring $10,000.
"Unlike any other sports collectible, I can see Eruzione's collection and Christoff's gold medal finding their way into people's home who are not necessarily sports fans, because this was patriotic. They made movies and documentaries about this," said Howie Schwartz, CEO of Grandstand Sports in New York City, a sports and entertainment memorabilia venture that has had exclusive deals with the "Miracle On Ice" team over the years for autographed merchandise and appearances.
"It was the biggest upset in sports history," he said. "In my eyes, Eruzione's collection is a seven-figure sale, as is Christoff's gold medal."
Eruzione said he hopes whoever buys his pieces will appreciate them as much as he has.
"It was a special, proud moment," he said. "It was not just a great moment for me and my teammates, but a great moment for the United States."