40 years ago today, Massachusetts was a big part of 1980 US Olympic hockey team's 'Miracle on Ice'

40 years ago today, Massachusetts was a big part of 1980 US Olympic hockey team's 'Miracle on Ice'

Forty years ago today, a group of college kids, including four from Massachusetts, pulled off perhaps the most stunning upset in sports history.

Happy birthday, Miracle on Ice. Born Feb. 22, 1980, Lake Placid, N.Y.

Mike Eruzione of Winthrop, Mass., and Boston University scored the winning goal with 10 minutes to play as the US Olympic hockey team, then made up of collegians, defeated the Soviet Union, the four-time defending gold medalists generally considered the best team in the world at the time, 4-3 in the medal round at the 1980 Winter Games.

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The Americans scored twice in an 81-second span to wipe out a 3-2 USSR lead and stun a team that had been an unbeatable machine in international competition. 

Al Michaels' call of "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" as the final seconds ticked off has become one of the most famous in sports.

Eruzione and goalie Jim Craig were two of the four BU players and Massachusetts natives (Jack O'Callahan of Charlestown and Dave Silk of Scituate were the others) on that team that would go on to win the gold medal two days later with a nearly-as-stirring 4-2 comeback victory over Finland. 

Craig, who made 36 saves in turning back the mighty Soviets, was a BU kid from North Easton, Mass., who, like Eruzione, would use the victory as inspiration for a motivational speaking career.

"To be able to walk into a locker room for the first time and you see your name on a jersey that represents your country, it's very, very special," Craig told WEEI's "Dale and Keefe" show this week. "And to be able to do that and perform collectively as well as we did and be able to do execute something that nobody but our teammates and I thought we had a chance of doing is very special." 

Thirteen of the 20 US players would go on to play in the NHL, including three for the Bruins: Craig had 23-game stint with Boston in 1980-81, and a Bruins stop was part of long NHL careers for Silk (1983-85 with the B's) and Dave Christian of Minnesota (1989-91 with the B's). O'Callahan played six years for the Chicago Blackhawks. Seven of the Soviet players eventually went on to the NHL, too.

Eighteen of American players have gathered in Las Vegas this weekend for a reunion that will include a pregame ceremony before the Vegas Golden Knights-Florida Panthers game Saturday night. Their coach, Herb Brooks, was killed in a car accident in 2003, defenseman Bob Suter died in 2014 and forward Mark Pavelich was imprisoned on assault charges last year.

Eruzione, captain of the team, told the Associated Press this week he still gets a similar reaction when he first meets people who were around 40 years ago. 

“The stories I hear, 40 years later, depending on their age: ‘I remember where I was when Kennedy was assassinated, I remember where I was on 9/11, I remember where I was when the Challenger blew up, and I remember where I was when we won.' "

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Bruins legend Bobby Orr has kind words for Mass General employees battling COVID-19

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Bruins legend Bobby Orr has kind words for Mass General employees battling COVID-19

Count Bobby Orr among those offering their thanks to those battling the coronavirus.

Orr wrote a letter to Massachusetts General Hospital thanking the people involved in the battle against COVID-19. Here's a look at some of what the legendary Boston Bruins defenseman had to say in his letter, per Mass General's official website.

Undoubtedly, the days and weeks ahead will test us all in many ways. But none will be tested more than those of you who continue to manage, treat and research the virus day after day after day. Given your efforts and expertise, I have great confidence in the eventual outcome of this pandemic, in no small measure because of the excellence I have personally witnessed at Mass General.

To all of you, please ... keep on fighting the good fight, and thank you so much for all you do.

That is certainly a kind gesture by Orr and one that echoes how thankful a lot of people are for the dedication of these hospital staffers during these incredibly difficult times.

Bruce Cassidy 'thinks it all comes back quickly' for Bruins if NHL returns

Bruce Cassidy 'thinks it all comes back quickly' for Bruins if NHL returns

The Boston Bruins last played competitive hockey on Tuesday, March 10, a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Shortly after that, the NHL suspended operations amid the global coronavirus pandemic. And at this point in time, it's unclear when -- or if -- the league will resume the 2020 season.

But Bruce Cassidy isn't letting that bother him too much. While the Bruins head coach knows the decision is out of his control, the team's potential is what's keeping him motivated as the suspension drags on.

"We’re not done. We have a lot left in us. A good team, a good chance to win a Stanley Cup and that’s what motivates me," Cassidy said, per The Athletic's Joe McDonald. "The powers that be will decide that down the road and hopefully we get our opportunity."

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If the Bruins do get that chance, Cassidy doesn't expect it to take long for the team to get back in the swing of things.

"Once we get together I think it all comes back quickly," Cassidy said. "We’ve all been through this for a long time, so for us getting back into work mode will be an easy transition."

The B's are a veteran-laden team, so the time off may benefit them more as they get fully healthy and recover from a long NHL season. Still, it's worth wondering how long it may take for them to get their legs underneath them if the season does start up again.

But given their torrid start to the season, in which they scored points in 13 of 14 games after playing into the summer in the battle for a Stanley Cup, they should have a good chance to come out well-rested and ready to go as Cassidy expects.

That said, there's no timetable on a potential return for the NHL. And until then, the B's will have to wait and mentally prepare for what will hopefully another long summer of hockey.