Miracle Monday: The Captain + the Captains That Could've Been

Guys, this is the first Miracle Monday for which I can take no credit for the topic! I got a prompt! Is that a weird thing to be excited about? Either way, shout out to my lovely friend Mary for giving me an incredibly interesting question to think about! :)

The original idea is as follows: "In the movie, Al Michaels says something along the lines of, “Mike Eruzione, newly named captain of this US team, for what Herb Brooks says is his leadership, ‘on and off the ice’.” What made Rizzo such a good captain? Was he the obvious choice? If not, who else could have filled the C roles? Dissect that!. :)"

Now, if you know me at all, you know that I love me some character analysis. So this is right up my alley, and I'm pretty pumped. Let's get to it!

In case you've been living under a rock or aren't an American, Mike Eruzione is the captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. (Shocker, right?) It's a pretty well-known fact that he wasn't the most talented player on the team -- he'd be the first to tell you -- but as a player he was more characterized by his heart than his skill. He was always eager to be on the ice during those critical moments, and it's probably important to note that all of his goals during the Olympics came at important times: we all know about his game-winner against the Soviets, but his goals against Czechoslovakia and Norway were both the first of those games and kick-started the scoring rallies that would ultimately lead to victories. He came through when his team needed him to!

Off the ice, he was outgoing and not afraid to talk to anybody, including Herb Brooks. He was the second oldest on this team full of children, so his leadership role came pretty naturally. Herb knew about Rizzo's previous experiences on U.S. national teams (when he didn't play much but was always positive and pumping up his teammates) and had him tapped as his captain almost from the get-go.

Honestly, it's almost hard to even imagine anyone else filling this role. (I mean, 35 years of being the most visible face of the team speaks for itself!) But let's take a look at some other quality candidates.

Including Bill here almost seems like a cop-out, but I can't not include the alternate captain, right? ;) It's truly a tragedy that he (metaphorically) wore the A and nobody really knows about it, because Bill truly deserves that recognition. In college he was named an All-American in 1979 while serving as the Gophers team captain -- so, clearly, he had that leadership thing down pat. He was an incredibly skilled defenseman and ranked third on the Olympic team in penalty minutes because he wasn't afraid to mix it up to defend his teammates. And let's not forget his goal to tie Sweden, potentially the most important goal of the whole Olympic tournament. The dude came through in the clutch! Bill also happened to be a very uniting figure in the locker room: he grew up on the Iron Range, became a Gopher, and was so likable that he quickly earned the respect of the Bostonians. So basically, he managed to relate to everybody, and everyone wanted to be his friend. Throw in his soft-spoken nature, and he's really the perfect alternate to Rizzo's captain.

Also? At the 35th anniversary reunion, Bill was wearing a jersey with the A on it!
I didn't notice this until I saw video and photos several weeks after the reunion, and I'm not ashamed to say I yelled a little bit when I did notice. I'm so here for Bill wearing the A!

Fun story: Buzz was very nearly voted team captain over Rizzo. It's been speculated that he may have won if the vote was truly democratic. It was, technically, a fair vote, but Herb had been giving captain-like duties to Rizzo beforehand to try and subtly sway opinions in his favor. That's not to say Rizzo wouldn't have won otherwise, but it speaks to just how beloved Buzz was. It's impossible not to like this guy (or maybe that's my own personal experience talking?). Herb loved him because he never got ruffled and always managed to be pleasant and positive. Like Bill, he's an Iron Ranger that became a Gopher and played on years of national teams with Rizzo (a Bostonian), so he was able to bridge all of those gaps. He was another that was all heart when he played, and he could basically score at will on Vladislav Tretiak, potentially the greatest goalie of all time. And he's the oldest on the team, and the only returning Olympian from the 1976 team, so it was only natural that his experience made him a leader. I mean, tell me Buzz wouldn't have made an amazing captain, I dare you!

Poke around the interwebz long enough and you'll find a source that lists OC as alternate captain. I don't know where that false factoid came from, but whoever originated it shares my belief that OC was a hell of a leader on this team. I mean, he blew out his knee a few days before the Olympics and Herb kept him on the roster; he was willing to absorb the loss of an able-bodied player because OC's personality and off-ice presence was that valuable. That could really speak for itself, but have some more! He was captain during his senior year at Boston University, where coach Jack Parker praised him for his poise and determination. He was the highest-scoring defenseman on the Olympic team while leading the team in penalty minutes. He's one of those guys that has no fear, be it of a bloody nose or of sharing his opinions, and it's been said that he can get along with absolutely anybody from any walk of life. I'd certainly follow this guy into battle!

Mark is kind of my sleeper pick on this list, simply because of how softspoken he was (and is). He doesn't really seem like the take-charge leader type... but he was a captain in the NHL and has been the head coach of the University of Wisconsin women's hockey team for over a decade. So, y'know, never underestimate the power of a quiet man! Mark has that low-key sort of confidence that just makes you trust him, and it certainly didn't hurt that he was the best college hockey player in the country and the best player on the Olympic team. Any time an opponent got a little too rough with Mark, without fail there'd be someone there in the blink of an eye to defend him. Seriously, his troops would instantly rally around him, and if that doesn't speak to his value and leadership I don't know what does!

Well, this was super fun! And I'm still looking for a few more post ideas, so if anyone has a subject to suggest, send it my way! ;)

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