In the interest of full disclosure, Mike Eruzione wants bidders to know that some items up for auction, like his gloves and shoulder pads, “don’t smell very good.” But they’re authentic, just like the rest of the memorabilia the 1980 Olympic hockey hero from Winthrop is selling.
Offerings include his jerseys, stick, the cowboy hat he wore at opening ceremonies — even his Olympic credential. Everything, that is, except his gold medal and ring. “Those will never be sold as long as I’m alive,” he vows.
Selling artifacts from the “Miracle on Ice,” which Sports Illustrated named the Top Sports Moment of the 20th century, is a delicate issue and Eruzione accepts that. “I’ve seen some comments like: How can you do that? That’s a piece of history,” he said. “I can understand that. . . . I know there are going to be some negative comments.”
But he is firm in his reason for selling.
Eruzione will use the proceeds, which the auction house estimates could surpass $1.5 million, to benefit his children and grandchildren and the Winthrop Foundation, the charitable nonprofit organization that he founded in his hometown.
“My parents always taught me to take care of family,” he says. “What better way than this?”
Heritage Auctions puts “The Mike Eruzione Collection” on the block in New York Feb. 23, the day between the dates when the Boys of Winter shocked the Soviet Union and then defeated Finland for the gold medal.
Eruzione is not the first famed Boston athlete to auction off keepsakes from his playing days. Bob Cousy sold one of his Celtics championship rings, his league Most Valuable Player trophy, an All-Star Game uniform, and other memorabilia a decade ago to help provide for his daughters and grandchildren.
“I don’t need the money,” said the 58-year-old Eruzione, who is director of special outreach for Boston University’s athletic department and a popular motivational speaker. “My wife and I have enough to live very comfortably.”
But given the demand for sports collectibles, Eruzione says he’d been thinking of turning his Olympic gear — which has sat in his attic for 33 years — into cash for his two sons, his daughter, his new grandson, and others who may follow.
“When I heard that Paul Henderson sold his jersey from the 1972 Summit Series for $1.275 million, I said to my wife, ‘Honey, we’ve got to get that jersey out of the attic,’ ” he said.
The white jersey with his name and number (21) that Eruzione was wearing when he scored the winning goal against the Soviets is expected to fetch at least $1 million; the stick that he used, and the blue jersey that he wore in the gold-medal victory over the Finns, likely will go for six figures apiece, based on current online bids.
“Obviously Mike’s jersey is one of a kind from a very unique moment,” said Chris Ivy, Heritage’s director of sports auctions.
Collectors are willing to pay dearly for historic uniform items. Babe Ruth’s first New York jersey went for $4.4 million last year, a record for any piece of sports memorabilia. Last month the Yankees jersey that Don Larsen wore when he pitched his perfect game against the Dodgers in the 1956 World Series was bought for $756,000.
Before making the decision Eruzione consulted with his family (“My daughter at first was reluctant”) and with BU coach Jack Parker, who had four players on the 1980 team. “I was concerned about the perception, how people would feel about it,” he said. “Jack looked at me and said, ‘Good for you.’ That kind of solidified it for me.”
Some of Eruzione’s team members have already put their Olympic items up for sale. Mark Wells and Steve Christoff have auctioned their gold medals, and the captain says that his teammates’ reactions to his decision have been positive.
“It’s all been good,” said Eruzione, who realizes that his sale probably will elevate the going rate for his colleagues’ mementos as well. “I’m doing it for the right reason. If I was broke and needed the money, they’d feel bad for me.”
Virtually everything in Eruzione’s Olympic equipment and travel bags — nearly two dozen items — will be under the hammer. Besides his playing equipment, the collection includes parade and award uniforms, team parka outfit, knitted hats, sweatsuits, sweaters, sweatshirts, T-shirts, and socks.
“I don’t know where my helmet is,” Eruzione said. “I don’t know where my skates are. That’s what’s driving me nuts. I don’t know whether I donated them or not.”
His elbow pads are on display at the Winter Olympic museum in Lake Placid, which would like to keep them. Everything else goes to the highest bidder, which Eruzione feels is better than having his equipment molder and mildew in a trunk that he rarely opens. He does not need to play dress-up to remind himself of what he and his teammates accomplished in the Adirondacks.
“When a guy wins an Oscar, the Oscar is what he wanted,” Eruzione said. “We wanted a gold medal. That’s what we went there for.”