The jersey worn by hockey great Mike Eruzione in the U.S. Miracle on Ice victory over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics was auctioned for almost $660,000 Saturday, though surprising strong interest in the stick he used to score the winning goal and his gold medal game jersey pushed the overall sale to more than $1.3 million.
Spirited bidding drove the value of the hockey stick to $262,900, more than five times the $50,000 it was expected to go for as a 9-year-old boy and his father outbid others, earning a high-five slap and a hug for the youth from Eruzione himself.
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Gloves he wore throughout the Olympic tournament sold for $53,775, more than 10 times their pre-auction estimates. The blue jersey the team's captain wore to win the gold against Finland fetched $286,800. Even his warm-up suit sold for $26,290 while his red pants went for $28,680.
As expected, the No. 21 white jersey worn during the epic come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Soviets scored highest, rising to finish at $657,250 during several rounds of bidding. The outcome in Lake Placid, N.Y., was surprising because the U.S. team was largely made up of amateurs playing against a Soviet team of professionals widely considered unbeatable. The 33rd anniversary of the historic game was Friday.
"Tonight, we saw collectors show Mike Eruzione, and that entire team, how highly they think of him and of the things he achieved," said Chris Ivy, director of sports at the Dallas-based Heritage Auctions. "It couldn't have happened to a nicer, more giving person."
Ivy said there were about 20 to 25 active bidders in a room of more than 140 people, with even more online or on the telephone.
"There was a lot of action, a lot of interest in his material," Ivy said. Eruzione spoke to the bidders before bidding began, telling them what the materials meant to him and saying that the sale would help his children and charity.
The Soviet-game jersey did not reach the over $1 million it was projected to draw, but Ivy said the better-than-expected sales of other items and bidding on 18 more lots on Sunday was expected to push the overall value of the sale to its goal of $1.5 million.
Heritage did not immediately release the buyers' names, saying it wasn't known if they wanted to be identified.
Ivy said the buyers "were collectors but they were very happy about Mike." He said the 9-year-old boy had watched the movie about Eruzione and "knew exactly who he was and was very pleased to meet him."
Eruzione, 58, sold the Olympic items to benefit his three adult children and a grandson, along with the Winthrop Foundation, which finances charities in his hometown of Winthrop, Mass., just outside Boston.
Though he received no lucrative endorsements after the hockey victory, Eruzione said in a recent interview that he was not hurting financially.
"I thought this would be a great little nest egg for them for their future with their kids," he said.
He added that the memorabilia had remained in his USA hockey bag in the attic of his home since the historic Olympic victories.
Still, he kept one treasure.
"As long as I'm alive, the gold medal won't be sold," said Eruzione, now 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.