Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Jim Craig – Olympic Hero

Posted on January 31, 2010 by Joe Gill
Jim Craig

Jim Craig

The February Sports Then and Now Athlete of the Month, was a crucial member of a squad that registered one of the most unexpected and memorable performances in Winter Olympic history.

Massachusetts native, Jim Craig was an integral part of the impossible dream and Olympic victory in Lake Placid, New York. February will mark the 30th anniversary of the “Miracle On Ice” when the United States hockey team stunned the powerful Soviets and went on to capture the gold.

Craig played collegiate hockey at Boston University where he was an All-American goalie. In two seasons at BU, Craig posted a 29-4-2 record with a 3.65 GAA. He also helped the Terriers capture a NCAA championship in 1978.

After college, Jim Craig chose the US Olympic team over the NHL’s Atlanta Flames. His sick mother wanted him to play for his country and he kept that promise to her. Unfortunately, she succumbed to her illness and never got to see Jim play for the United States. For that reason, Craig was playing with a heavy heart.

Craig’s play in the Winter games in Lake Placid was nothing short of phenomenal. His amazing play in goal led the overachieving US squad to a 6-0-1 record as he registered a microscopic 2.14 GAA.

His defining moment was against the Soviet Union in the Olympic semi-finals. The Soviets embarrassed the US team a few weeks earlier, 10-3 in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden. The U.S.S.R had the best ice hockey team on the planet.

But not on this night.

The Soviets dominated most of the game by outshooting the Americans 42-16. Craig pushed away 39 of those shots and gave his upstart teammates a chance to scratch away.

Scratch and claw they did on route to a one of the biggest upsets in sports history. The US Olympic team comprised of amateurs beat the seasoned professional Soviet squad, 4-3.

Sports Illustrated said of Team USA’s win over the Soviet Union;

“It may just be the single most indelible moment in all of U.S. sports history. One that sent an entire nation into frenzy.”

Craig and his teammates did not lose focus of the task at hand. They still had a matchup against the Fins for the Gold. Jim Craig kept his stellar play and backstopped his team to a 4-2 victory. Against all odds, the US Men’s hockey team not only won the Gold medal, but inspired and help rally a deflated country.

After the Olympic Games, Jim Craig signed with the team that drafted him, the Atlanta Flames. He posted a win in his first NHL start. However, he would only play four games for the Flames before being traded to his hometown; Boston Bruins for two draft picks (one who became long time Flames and Red Wings goalie, Mike Vernon).

In Boston, Craig didn’t have much of an impact. He started just 23 games for the Bruins with 9-7-6 record

Jim Craig played for the Boston Bruins during the '80-'81 season.

Jim Craig played for the Boston Bruins during the '80-'81 season.

before Rogie Vachon and Marco Baron took over the goalkeeping duties for good. Jim Craig was sent to the minors.

In 1982, Jim Craig would make a return to the US national team where he played 26 games. He would impress his former Olympic teammate, Neal Broten who was playing for the Minnesota North Stars at the time. Broten pushed the front office and Craig was given a contract by Minnesota in 1983.

Due to injury, Craig would only play 3 games for the North Stars. Jim Craig would never play hockey again.

Jim Craig’s impact on US hockey is immeasurable. Since his retirement, Craig has been enshrined in the Boston University Athletic Hall of Fame, the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame, the United State Hockey Hall of Fame, and the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.

Jim Craig still resides in his hometown of North Easton, Massachusetts. He works as a successful businessman and motivational speaker. He has helped inspire and instruct employees from over 300 corporations including Coca Cola, Bayer, Dunkin’ Donuts, Walt Disney, and John Hancock.

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