Certain sports events define a generation. One of those, without a doubt, was the Miracle on Ice. At the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, the United States was represented by a young squad of amateur hockey players; they, of course, upset the Soviet Union en route to a gold medal. During that tournament, players like Jim Craig and Mike Eruzione wrote their names in American sporting legend.
While Jim Craig might have been a hero that night in Lake Placid, the Olympic tournament didn’t kick off an NHL career for the goalie. Instead, it started him down a different career path.
The Miracle on Ice
In 1980, the United States and the Soviet Union were the world’s two political superpowers. When they met in the Olympic hockey tournament, however, things weren’t as evenly matched.
While the Soviets were a dominant ice hockey power capable of competing with, if not outplaying, NHL opposition, the United States sent a different sort of team to Lake Placid: one full of young, amateur players led by veteran college coach Herb Brooks. Despite those contrasting squads, the two teams emerged from the group stage undefeated; that meant they would meet in the medal round.
Despite Brooks’ motivational speech, the Americans fell behind within the first ten minutes of the game; the young squad fought back, however, and, after trading goals, the two teams headed to the locker room tied at two.
The Soviets struck first in the middle frame and took a 3-2 lead into the third period. At that point, however, the game turned. Mark Johnson buried the tying goal and, a few minutes later, Mike Eruzione gave Team USA the lead. Despite their best efforts, the Soviet Union squad couldn’t beat Craig, giving the young American team a place in history.
Jim Craig’s playing career
During the United State’s historic win over the Soviet Union, Jim Craig stopped 36 of 39 shots on his net. While that performance should have signaled the start of his professional career, it wasn’t to be.
The Atlanta Flames drafted Craig in 1977, but didn’t call him up to the big club until after the Olympics. Less than a week after the United States won gold, though, the goalie was a professional player; in fairy tale fashion, he won his NHL debut in front of a sold-out crowd. While he even appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, with the headline “The Golden Goalie Cashes In,” Craig’s star didn’t shine any brighter than that night.
Craig only played in three more games that season; he didn’t record another win. He spent the one season as the Boston Bruins’ backup goalie, appearing in 23 games, before joining the Minnesota North Stars. After three games in the State of Hockey, he retired from the professional game.
Where is Jim Craig now?
While Jim Craig didn’t stick at the NHL level, his accomplishments with the 1980s United States hockey team will live on forever. Based on that reality, it isn’t surprising that Craig currently serves as the president and founder of Gold Medal Strategies; through the company, he primarily appears as a motivational and keynote speaker. The former goalie is also an author, understandably writing about the Miracle on Ice.
“Every life has a different chapter, and I was meant to do the things I was meant to do,” Craig told Inside Edition. “I was fortunate to have this event to be a platform to do things that meant a lot for me.”