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‘Miracle’ hockey team’s Vegas Trump rally appearance was unplanned, captain says

(Trump photo provided by the White House, Eruzione photo by Andy Flynn, Adirondack Daily Enterprise)

The rally appearance, the “Keep America Great” hats — none of it was planned, according to Mike Eruzione.

On Friday, members of the “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Olympic hockey team who stunned the world with a win over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid were swept into the off-the-cuff world of a President Donald Trump’s rally in Las Vegas, according to team captain Eruzione, and some have been surprised at the negative backlash directed at them in the days since.

The team was invited on stage at a campaign rally to thunderous applause and shouts of “USA! USA! USA!” Seen one way, the moment was glorious, as they once again were celebrated as heroes during the anniversary of the 1980 Olympics.

Outside of the Las Vegas Convention Center, however, the appearance was not as well received. Many Americans see Trump as a divisive figure in politics, and many — especially non-Republicans — believe the team’s appearance with him “tainted” their legacy. That they would don his red hats, which have become a powerful symbol in American culture, was sickening to some.

Eruzione has since said he is not a political guy and that the hat did not represent to what it does to others. He said if he had known how wearing the hat would affect others he might not have done it.

He is one of the few team members who is on Twitter, and he told Washington Post reporter David Nakamura he has been affected by what he is reading there. He told his wife people think they are a “disgrace” and asked Nakamura, “You going to light into me, too? We’re getting killed!”

In an interview with Nakamura, Eruzione described how the team ended up on stage.

They had been flown out to Nevada by the Vegas Golden Knights NHL hockey team to drop the puck at a game and to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the big game. They had the chance to meet the president backstage before the rally, and while taking photos, Trump invited them to join him onstage.

Eruzione said their response was “Sure.”

They were handed the red “Keep America Great” hats, and Eruzione said he never thought twice about putting his on. He knows Trump is controversial but said he did not understand how divisive his presidency has been.

With the team onstage, Trump led the crowd in loud boos at the “fake news,” moaned about a foreign language film winning Best Picture at the Oscars and shouted, “12 more years!” for his presidency.

“To us, this is not about politics or choosing sides,” @1980MiracleTeam tweeted. “This is about proudly representing the United States of America. Whether your beliefs are Democratic, Republican or Independent, etc. we support that and are proud to represent the USA.”

Eruzione is a member of the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida. He told the Post he voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and Trump in 2016. He also once appeared on the season finale of Trump’s former reality show “The Apprentice” in 2006.

Lake Placid was also celebrating the 40th anniversary of its 1980 Winter Olympics with a variety of events. The U.S. hockey team was not there, as it was for the games’ 35th anniversary in 2015, but its members show up every spring for a Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp.

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