Miracle Monday: Jim Craig

Miracle Monday

Dang, guys, can you believe this is it? I mean, not it it -- come on, do you really think I'm already out of things to say about this team? LOL, please, we've only scratched the surface -- but this is the end of the roster. #20 of 20. That's kind of unbelievable. When I decided to go in numerical order, I made that choice knowing that it was a sacrifice: I'd have to wait more than four months to write about Jim Craig. But now, here we are. (Not that this is the first time. And hey, remember when I met him and it was the greatest? And remember when he followed me on Twitter and I almost had a heart attack? Yeah, Jim is kind of a thing around these parts.)

Jim Craig


+ Jim started playing hockey on a frozen pond near his house, and started playing goalie because of a trio of fantastic reasons: 1) he played catcher in baseball and liked that playing in goal meant wearing similar gear, 2) he didn't know the rules of hockey and figured, stopping a puck, how hard could it be? And 3) playing goal meant he never had to be off the ice. His talent was overlooked for a long time, even though he went 53-3-1 in high school, and he ended up spending his first year of college at Massasoit Communitty College. But Jim had the cockiness and swagger to prove himself to just about everyone. He won himself a scholarship and the starting job at Boston University and led the Terriers to the national championship in 1978. As the backup goalie on the 1979 world championship team, he held the U.S. to a 2-2 tie against Czechoslovakia (the second-best team in the world), and that performance convinced Herb that Jim would be his starting goalie on the Olympic team.

+ Considering what he's most remembered for, it probably doesn't come as a surprise that Jim was (and still is) the ultimate family man. His mom died of bone cancer in 1977 and he was very affected by her death, and he's said that his dad was his best friend. He grew up in a house with seven siblings and loved that family atmosphere; during the pre-Olympic season, instead of living in an apartment, he moved in with the team doctor and his wife. This let him hang onto the family feeling and save the money he'd be spending on rent, so he could send more of his stipend home to his dad. (What a gem, right?!) Having so many siblings also made Jim a bit of a loner, as he loved being around his teammates but didn't mind going off on his own and carving out his own space. Between that and his extreme self-confidence, he had a bit of a knack for alienating people. But for all the people he rubbed the wrong way, he had just as many people who loved him for all his quirks.

+ Jim was the Olympic team's starting goalie from day one, playing in 41 pre-Olympic games and earning a record of 30-8-1. He also played every minute of every game in the Olympics and, as you probably already know, played absolutely out of his mind. But to get the full scope of just how epic Jim's performance was, let's look at how the scoring broke down; in the seven Olympic games, he let in nine goals in first periods, three goals in second periods, and three goals in third periods. He literally got better the longer he was on the ice. Is that epic or what?! Herb wanted to rest Jim in some of the easier round robin games and give Steve Janaszak some ice time, but Jim flat-out refused, and the coaching staff opted to stay with his momentum and hot hand. And, uh, guess that ended up working out okay. :P And then, of course, Jim etched himself into America's heart for all eternity when he searched for his father in the stands after winning the gold medal. :) (I've watched that numerous times now and am never fully emotionally prepared.)

+ After the Olympics, Jim's life sort of exploded into a whirlwind of fame. He'd been drafted by the Atlanta Flames in 1977 and was playing in his first NHL game within a week -- but in that week, he experienced a perpetual media blitz to the point of developing a tension ulcer. Atlanta already had two goalies and didn't need a third, but the team was facing bankruptcy and relocation, so they used the newfound American hero to rejuvenate things a bit. But not even Jim could keep the flames in Atlanta, and he was traded to the Boston Bruins when the franchise moved to Calgary ('cause, y'know, Canadians don't really care about American heroes). Jim played fairly well with Boston, but his fame alienated his teammates and injuries hampered his playing, so he ended up in the minors and then picked up by the Minnesota North Stars. But he still couldn't overcome injuries and never quite found his footing in the NHL, and retired in 1984.

+ If Jim's pro hockey career was a bit of a letdown... his professional business career has been anything but. He's worked in sales and marketing for several decades, does motivational speaking and corporate coaching, started his own company... I mean, hello, check out that resume. He's hugely successful.

...And in January I ran into him in an elevator and somehow managed to keep a straight face. Still not totally sure how that happened.

Jim Craig

He also happens to be every bit as nice as you could possibly hope he'd be. More so, actually. I was blown away. He's kind of the best.

And that brings this stage of Miracle Monday to it's end. OMG. I hope you've all enjoyed these last 20 weeks as much as I have! Stay tuned for next week, though, as things will be looking a little different but equally as fun! :)

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  1. He seems like a gem in many ways! I remember seeing him search for his dad in the stands after the gold medal game. Lucky you, getting to meet him and having the him live up to his reputation as a great guy!

  2. Fun facts: on Paddy Dempsey's Twitter he posted up a pic of the classic pads Eddie wore for Miracle in his house; they actually belonged to Paddy's uncle! Eddie is also a native New Yorker like Gavin O'Connor (although he was raised in Armonk, Westchester). A year after Miracle, Eddie was cast in CSI: NY as Detective Don Flack (of Italian-Irish extraction much like Eddie) for the next nine seasons, and Flack was a hockey nut playing forward in a charity game against the FDNY.