It has been 28 years since the Miracle on Ice, 28 years since goalie Jim Craig skated around the ice in Lake Placid, N.Y., with a U.S. flag draped over his shoulders as he searched the stands and mouthed, "Where's my father?"
These days, the 50-year-old Craig lives in his hometown of North Easton, Mass., with his wife and two teenage kids. He owns a promotions and marketing business, Boston-based Gold Medal Strategies. He also works with W.L. Gore & Associates (the manufacturer of Gore-Tex fabrics, as well as a line of medical products) to raise awareness of abdominal aortic aneurysms, a little-known malady that killed Craig's father, Donald Craig, in 1988.
The implementation on Jan. 1, 2007, of the SAAAVE Act (Screening Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Very Effectively) provided a free ultrasound screening for qualified Medicare customers. The importance of at-risk seniors and people with a family history of vascular disease taking advantage of that screening and, if necessary, undergoing potentially life-saving treatment was Craig's message Tuesday before the Lightning-Sabres game at the St. Pete Times Forum.
He also touched on his brief NHL career; his thoughts on the 2004 movie, "Miracle," based on the 1980 gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic hockey team; and what it still means to him today to have been a part of one of the most poignant moments in American history:
Abdominal aortic aneurysm ... it took your dad. You're obviously very passionate about getting the word out about it.
Twenty years ago, my father went in to the hospital. He had a little bit of back pain, which sometimes you'll have some symptoms. He went into the hospital and the hospital thought he had kidney stones. All of a sudden, his aneurysm bursts, and he dies. So, 15,000 people die a year, 250 don't even know they have an aneurysm. ... An aneurysm is hereditary, in a lot of cases. And if anybody in your family has high blood pressure, you need to go get checked, because there's a real good chance there's an aneurysm. An aneurysm takes time to grow, so they say check it when you're 50 or 60, depending on your family history. If they go in and do a screening - it's an ultrasound - if you don't have one and you're 50, you're never gonna. If you have one, they can monitor it and the success rate ... is 99 percent.
If we could shift subjects, I understand you still have the flag. Where is it and, also, where is the gold medal?
The medal I share at New England Sports Museum in Boston. The flag will be going to a display at the National Sports Museum that's going to be opening this spring in New York. That's going to be on loan there, as well. It's going to be right in Battery Park, so you can look out and see the Statue of Liberty right there. And it's going to be a national sports museum, not just one sport. And I though that would be the best spot for everybody to see it. Everybody goes to New York City at some point. So, why make it so difficult for people who want to find out about it? They were kind of excited about it, so that's where it's going to go.
You've obviously gone on to a successful business career, but does a part of you still think there was unfinished business in an NHL career that ended in 1984, four years after those Olympics?
I was real close to doing real well. I tore a hamstring in three spots. It was going real well when I was with Minnesota, but an injury ended it. The thing that was different was every city I went to, after every practice, I was interviewed. That takes its toll. By the time I got to Minnesota, it was done and I was playing well and it was going well. It is what it is. I'm very happy. I've got a wonderful career. I went on to have a great business career. I own my own company now Gold Medal Strategies. I get to do spokesperson work for a very important cause.
What did you think of the movie "Miracle"?
I thought they did a wonderful job. It was a legacy piece. Kurt Russell who played Coach Herb Brooks did a nice job. Eddie Cahill, who played my part, did a nice job. The story's really very accurate.
In fact, one of the things that really stood out was Russell's portrayal of Brooks. Was he as good as he seemed to outsiders?
Kurt Russell's a megastar, and not because he's not good. He's very good. He did a wonderful job. The mannerisms, everything.
Winning that gold medal the way you did was obviously one of the most inspiring moments in U.S. sports history, but as someone who experienced it from the inside, do you look back at it and feel the same way most Americans probably feel about it?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Before I do my motivational speaking, I have a little tape that starts out with them burning the flags in Iran when we had the Ayatollah, to us being all up on the podium watching our flag go up a little higher. It's a really special thing. I'm just proud to be part of 19 other guys and a whole country that was rooting for us.
Does it ever get old talking about it?
To be able to go around and do this campaign, and know that it's something so positive ... and the nice thing about it is, because of what my teammates and I accomplished, I have more value doing something like this than I would've. Who would want me if I didn't?