"You can follow me if you want to know the quickest way back," said Bruin goalie Jim Craig, en route from practice to his Brookline home to watch soap operas. "But I don't think you'll keep up. I don't mean to lose you or anything--it's just the way I drive."
Jim Craig, Olympic hockey hero, handles his life the way he handles his car--confidently, aggressively, fast. He negotiates his red sports car on Route One as though driving were a competitive event, bypassing the construction and light traffic with nonchalance and ease. The speedometer hits 82 mph.
He is like the kid you always envied growing up. The one who has life layed out perfectly--no creases.
Drafted by the Flames his freshman year at age 20, Craig went on to ultimate success at B.U.; and although he was passed four times by crimson Beanpot winners in 1977, Craig tended the nets of the best college icemen in the nation in 1978. Nationally celebrated in this country along with a handful of other noble young skaters who battled and defeated the Soviet Union at Lake Placid, Jim Craig continues his too-good-to-be-true existence.
The Good Life
What is there not to like about his life right now? He is playing NHL hockey in his home town, where he can be close to his large family of three brothers and four his large family of three brothers and four sisters. He never had to suffer throught the minor leagues. He enjoys working with coach Gerry Cheevers, who just wants Jim to keep on doing what he has always done. Craig anticipates playing 45 to 50 per cent of the season's 80 games, which "is all I want to play. That's enough, Forty games out of the season is fine."
It is tough sometimes having a national following so early in his pro career, because "there's always jealousy." Teammates give him some grief, but for the most part their expectations for him are high, their expectations for him are high, their encouragement genuine.
Coming off of such a monumental achievement--winning the Olympic gold--perhaps anything that follows might be a letdown. Craig disagrees. "I'm not trying to match the excitement of Lake Placid, I'm just trying to do different things. I'm always pushing myself and if I obtain my goals I'll be happy."
But if he does not meet his own standards, or those of the Bruins, what then? If Craig were sent to the minors he says he might retire. "There's nothing for me down there. I'm twenty three years old, and I would lose money by going down to the minors. If I thought that it would really help me play better here, and I really wanted to play here then I might do it."
If the NHL does not work out for Craig, he has other possibilities for his fast-lane future. Besides the option of going back to school to study business, and perhaps eventually trying politics, Craig has anther career in the making.
"Each year I get into TV a little bit more. I do appearances. I had a lot of shows that I was supposed to be on before the actor's strike came. This past summer I was going to film "Laverne and Shirley," "Mork and Mindy," "Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island." Since the strike ended, they start filming on Monday and I'll already be into the season. But I'll do it next summer."
The Bruins open their season tonight, but Craig won't get on the ice until sunday against the Canadiens, and he anticipates a tough game. Entering this season well situated behind the steering wheel, Jim Craig has every right to be confident, and every reason to keep his options open.