Last week at the LP Magazine annual meeting, Olympic legend Mike Eruzione offered a powerful message to the audience, and every one of us seeking loss prevention career advice: “Check your ego at the door.”
As the captain of the 1980 US Olympic “Miracle on Ice” hockey team that won the gold medal, Eruzione is the man who scored the goal that beat the Russians, sending the team on to face Finland for the gold. The Soviets had won every Winter Olympics ice hockey tournament since 1960, were well-seasoned “amateurs” who were employed by industrial firms or military organizations for the sole purpose of playing hockey on the Soviet team. In contrast, the Americans were a collection of amateur college students, most from the rival schools of the University of Minnesota and Boston University. But despite the odds, coach Herb Brooks managed to unify the players, training them for a year and leading them to victory.
Eruzione was born to an Italian-American family in Winthrop, Massachusetts. He grew up with many of his relatives living in a “three-family home.” He learned to play hockey for Youth Hockey of Winthrop as part of the Greater Boston Youth Hockey League, first learning to play wearing his sister’s figure skates until his family was able to afford to get him skates of his own.
Eruzione came to the 1980 team from the Toledo Goaldiggers of the International Hockey League, a team he joined after playing four years at Boston University. While at BU, he played on four ECAC champions and later, with the Goaldiggers, he was the IHL American Rookie of the Year.
The U.S. Hockey team began by looking at 68 players, and was trimmed to 26 within two weeks. Of those 26 players, only 20 would make the final team. Six players would be cut during the course of the Olympic training. “Although we all wanted to be part of the final 20-man roster, it was still important to support each other,” he said. “It was so important to understand that we were part of a team. How important it is to believe in yourself and each other and to work together.”
With what all of you do, it’s just as important to believe in yourself and each other, and to work together,” he added. Every successful loss prevention career must be built around the spirit of teamwork and cooperation. We are part of a bigger team and a bigger purpose, and we can never reach our objectives individually or collectively if we don’t work together.
Eruzione went on to describe the message that coach Brooks shared once the rosters were trimmed down to the final team.
“Coach Brooks said that ‘If you don’t want to be here, then leave, because there are thousands of people who would love to be in your shoes.’ That message is the same for all of us. If you don’t want to be a part of it, if you don’t want to buy into it, then leave. Because if you don’t want to play your role and do your part, you’re not only hurting your opportunity to be successful, but also the people that you work with and the people that you work for.“
Eruzione captained the 1980 US ice hockey team, but calls himself a “captain among captains,” noting that every member of that Olympic team had been a captain of their own team prior to joining the Olympic team. He talked about the need to work together, leaving behind former college rivalries and self-interests to build something special. He revealed stories of hard work and tough practices, adjusting to a different style of play; and even a different size court as they conformed to the European ice venue. He talked about the need to avoid a letdown after they beat the Russians and moved on to the gold medal event against Finland. And through it all, the message remained the same:
“Check your ego at the door—we’re all in this together. Everybody has a job. Everybody has a role. Understand what your job is, understand what your role is, and who knows—we might have an opportunity to be successful.”
After the Olympics, Eruzione retired from hockey and never played in the NHL. In 2002, he lit the Olympic Flame at the Opening Ceremony, accompanied by his 1980 hockey teammates, another event etched in his memory as a defining moment—one he says wouldn’t have been the same without the support and presence of his teammates.
This inspiring story of hard work, dedication, and a positive attitude offered tremendous insights leading up to that incredible victory, and left the audience buzzing in the aftermath of Eruzione’s tale of preparation, drive, and teamwork. But he also reminded us that this same message is an important aspect of every loss prevention career. We all have a responsibility to work together, check our egos at the door, and get the job done. This is what truly builds defining moments for all of us.