COLORADO SPRINGS — The year was 1980. Jim Craig was part of a young USA Hockey team. The All-American had played for Boston University before joining Team USA. Although talented, it wasn’t expected that this young American team could get past a tough, established Soviet team.
Team USA made it to the semifinals against the Soviets and Jim had played in almost every single minute of every game leading up to this point. Still, he wasn’t done leading his team to greatness. During the semifinal, Jim saved 36 of 39 shots, helping Team USA beat the Soviets 4-3 and advance to the finals against Finland. USA Hockey went on to down Finland 4-2, claiming the Gold Medal. An iconic photo of Jim, wrapped in the American flag, and looking into the stands for his widowed father still surfaces today.
“Whenever you’re able to be the best team in the world, it’s an incredible feeling. I think people can understand you can be the best college hockey team in the world, you can be the best professional team, but it’s not in the world, it’s in the United States. So, when you’re an Olympic champion, you’re the best in the world, so that feeling is, it’s unbelievable,” said Craig.
Jim says while the feeling of bringing home the gold is incredible, he couldn’t have done it without community support, hard work from coaches, parents, and the people who provided him opportunities.
To this day this historic Team USA victory is known as the “Miracle on Ice,” because it was one of the greatest surprises in Olympic history. But perhaps the turmoil the nation was facing, made this miracle even sweeter for our country.
This “Miracle on Ice” will forever be engraved in Olympic history because it was one of the greatest upsets in sports history. But perhaps what was happening in our nation then, helped this victory hold even more value to Americans at home.
The United States was still recovering from the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. And this young USA Hockey team had the country’s weight on their shoulders. But that only motivated them to stick together and remain focused.
“When you represent your country, and you put on that sweater, and you represent the flag and what it stands for. So, I think it was the perfect storm for us to have the Cold War and a lot of things happening that were challenging our resolve basically and I think our team really helped develop some good feelings and it was in Lake Placid and we were able to win and anytime you win, it always gives good momentum,” said Craig.
Jim says politics will always be happening around the time of the Olympic games but what makes the games so special, is their ability to put politics aside and bring our country together. He says being a part of that, is indescribable.