After the Miracle – Life Lessons from Jim Craig – Team USA’s 1980 Miracle on Ice Winning Goalie

What Happened AFTER the Miracle?

Do you believe in miracles?” If you know the story of the 1980 US Men’s Hockey team then of course you do. Whether you saw the movie or watched the actual game, the tale of how coach Herb Brooks took a bunch of no-name kids from the around the US and somehow guided them on a journey that saw them beat the heavily-favored Team USSR and later win Olympic Gold Medal is legendary.

Team USA faced a tall task as the Russian National Hockey Team was far more talented and had won the last 4 Olympic Gold Medals – by all rights the Soviets should have won the medal in 1980 too… but History had other plans. Despite being a mere 23 years old, Team USA Goalie Jim Craig somehow managed to stop 36 of 39 shots from the vaunted Russians, and with the help of teammates like Mike Eruzione and others, Craig and his mates created a true “Miracle on Ice.” 

Memories of a Miracle

Just in case you need a little reminder, here’s a clip of the final minute the 1980 USA vs. USSR Hockey Game that features Al Michael’s legendary “Do you believe in Miracles?” sports casting.

Pretty cool, huh? 
And yet that’s NOT what this article is about. Instead, let me ask you…

Do you know what happened to winning goalie Jim Craig AFTER the miracle? 

Jim was just a kid when he helped Team USA defeat the Russians in the Olympics. And while that event was certainly a high point for him, life didn’t end for Jim with that game or the Gold Medal he and his team earned. In fact, life got a lot harder for Jim and his future wasn’t always filled with miracles – he suffered hardships and pain. Jim had to repeatedly reinvent himself in order to provide for his family and discover his legacy in life. Along the way he learned valuable wisdom that helped him overcome the obstacles he faced in life. That wisdom is now available to you.

Learning Jim Craig’s life lessons can help YOU achieve your dreams – in spite of the odds against you.

Editor’s Note: this article is part of our on-going series that features wisdom for living a “Legacy Life.” What you read here is some of the wisdom Jim Craig shared at a company meeting I attended recently – myself and others were blessed to be able to listen to Jim’s story. It inspired me so much I wanted to share it with YOU.

Life is Not All Miracles

As one of eight children in a lower-middle class family, Jim’s childhood wasn’t easy. Although his parents and family were tight-knit, hockey was a way out of the potential no-where path to a hard life in Boston. After losing his mother to lung cancer during high school, Jim’s dream was to play hockey at Boston University. Unfortunately he was rejected not just by BU but all the other major colleges too. Without many options, Jim had to take the junior college route in order to keep his dream alive of playing professional hockey – a dream that seemed a long way off.

Fortunately, it was at Massasoit College that Jim met a mentor who helped him advance his hockey skills and helped him network with people like Herb Brooks. After leading his JC team to a national championship, Jim was finally accepted to Boston University – and he led them to an NCAA National Championship too. 

Things were looking good for Jim and his success as BU got him an invitation to join Brook’s Team USA squad as they prepared for the 1980 Olympics –unfortunately Jim he did nothing but ride the bench on Team USA – and once more his pro hockey dreams continued to fade. 

Yet fortune smiled on Jim when Team USA’s older and more skilled goalie was repeatedly unable to get the job done during Olympic training and Jim finally earned a chance to play – Jim shined during his moment in the sun and secured his spot as the top goalie on Team USA for the 1980 Olympics — where (as you know) he helped create The Miracle on Ice.

However, after those Olympics, things turned south on Jim yet again.

Although he achieved his dream of getting drafted by the NHL and playing in the league, he suffered a rash of injuries and even had a cancer scare. Worse yet, in 1982, Jim was involved in a highway accident on a rain-slicked road that left one woman dead and another passenger critically injured and Jim was charged with vehicular homicide. Although he was found not guilty, the event was damaging to his psyche and his public image — at 25 Jim suddenly had to navigate through a storm of bad publicity and he became a pariah to NHL teams who didn’t want to deal with the baggage he dragged behind him.

Oft-injured and unable to shake his image, Jim’s professional hockey dreams continued to die. However Jim continued to persevere and after bouncing around to 3 NHL teams, Jim began to play well again and eventually found himself in line for a big-money contract – one that would have secured his family’s financial future and kept him in the league for years to come.

Unfortunately, on the very night he was slated to finally sign that long-term deal Jim suffered a career-ending injury!

Not only did Jim NOT get his big money deal, but he was forced him to retire. And so, after just 4 seasons, at 27 Jim was out of the league and his dreams of professional hockey were over. It was a bad break. 

Worse yet, while this was happening to Jim, his fiance Sharlene was in the hospital dealing with her own health concerns. Thankfully she survived. Yet just a few years later Jim lost his father Don to cancer as well  – a man whose wisdom had carried him through his past hardships

With a new family and kids on the horizon, Jim had no job and no prospects. He was at a low point in life – yet with the help of two mentors he turned the challenges of youth into life lessons for others – eventually becoming an award-winning ad salesman and later a motivational speaker and the founder of Gold Medal Strategies

It wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen overnight, but Jim did succeed – against the odds he continued to build a lasting legacy. 

Jim achieved his dreams by relying on tried and true wisdom. And YOU can achieve the same success – if you simply learn and apply this wisdom to your life. 

The Wisdom of Jim Craig (and his father)

Here is the wisdom Jim Craig shared with my friends and I. Is some of it cliche? Perhaps. But does it work? Definitely! Put it to the test in your life and see the amazing things you can achieve.

Jim Craig on Dreams and Goals:

  • “You are what your dreams are.”
  • “You are the custodian of the legacy of your family – your legacy is made by you and those that came before you.”
  • “The common man goes nowhere.”
  • “If your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough.”

  • “Success happens when you believe you can win, you prepare, you focus on the process, and you execute the plan.”
  • “Either you are creating the future or you are part of the past.”
  • “Don’t let your memories be bigger than your dreams.”

Jim Craig on how friends and mentors can help you:

  • “If you don’t tell people what your dreams are, how can they help you?”
  • “Winning often comes from taking individual dreams and sharing it with others – this creates a sense of accountability and shared vision. It also gives you the help you need to make progress faster.”
  • “You can’t teach greatness, but you can recognize it and coach it to make it even better.”
  • “You are being evaluated every day, all the time – use it to your advantage.”
  • “Great teams accomplish more than great individuals.”

Jim Craig on the obstacles of life and doing the right thing.

  • “Anything epic is hard to do.”
  • “Choose the harder right over the easier wrong.”
  • “You can always recover from the truth.”
  • “You can’t lose integrity, you have to choose to give it up.”
  • “Be a victor not a victim – you always have a choice.”
  • “When you lose, you have a choice – you now understand what it will take to win so will you put in the effort required or give up and do something else?”
  • “Failure isn’t fatal, but fear of failure is.”

  • “Ask yourself – are you a passenger in life or a participant?”
  • “Push hard now or wish you did later.”
  • “You need to make the team every year – you can’t rest on your laurels.”
  • “Don’t just embrace change, create it.”
  • “Don’t just prepare, prepare to win!”
  • “If you wait till you’re comfortable to do what you’re capable of, you’ll never do it.”

Links to learn more about Jim Craig and the 1980 US Hockey Team:

YOU have a Dream & YOU have a Choice

If you’ve read this far that says something about you – most people would have given up by now but you did not. As a result, you’ve gained wisdom that others overlooked. 

Recall that we’ve talked many times about the importance of wisdom – think back to the words of King Solomon in the Book of Proverbs 24:3-4 “By wisdom a house is built and through understanding it it established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” 

The house that Solomon was discussing can be understood as a reference to your dreams. With wisdom such as that provided by Jim today, you can add to your knowledge and understanding, and with the help of mentors and friends, and hard work, you CAN achieve your dreams. 

Will you give the effort it takes to succeed? 

I hope you will. 

What to Read Next?

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3 thoughts on “After the Miracle – Life Lessons from Jim Craig – Team USA’s 1980 Miracle on Ice Winning Goalie”

  1. I have always been inspired by the “miracle” and the winning attitude it displayed. It was not about winning a game, as The Helpful Dad points out. It was a philosophy of living life and finding the strength to survive the cyclical nature of things. Going through a downward cycle is where we discover how much character we have, and whether we have been able to create the resources we need to go on. The up cycles are easy and fun, but the down cycles are where we discover our strengths.

    • MCThomsett, I love the part about going thru the downward cycle and taking stock of the resources you need to move on – great insights.


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