Second thoughts? Jim Craig hasn’t had any.
The goaltender for the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” hockey team isn’t getting cold feet about deciding to part with some cherished memorabilia from the Team USA's gold medal winning run in Lake Placid, New York 36 years ago.
After trying to sell a 19-piece lot that included his gold medal and iconic goalie mask last summer, Craig has decided to put 17 items up for auction individually through Lelands, a Long Island-based auction house. The gold medal and mask are joined by the jerseys he wore versus the Soviet Union and Finland, his “lucky” stick, and the American flag that was draped around his shoulders following the team’s final game of the tournament.
Craig isn’t the only member of that team to sell pieces of “Miracle” memorabilia. Ken Morrow and Mike Eruzione parted with items such as sticks and jerseys, while Mark Pavelich was the first to personally put his gold medal up for auction. (Mark Wells sold his gold medal to a private buyer due to health reasons. The buyer later sold the it at auction in 2010 for $310,700.)
Like his fellow “Miracle” teammates, Craig is selling these items for family reasons. He has two children and would like to set them and any potential grandkids up for the future.
“I just think what happened with me is we had [the items] appraised, I had a chance to meet with Lelands, people had been after me for years to try to part with some of it,” Craig said in an interview with Puck Daddy. “[It] wasn’t the right time. I think Bobby Suter passing away really was a wakeup call for all of us. Then there’s a huge responsibility as a dad with two children on who gets what. It became really hard and so we sat down as a family and said let’s share this with the rest of the [world] and let’s try to see if we can help [the kids] financially as well, and hopefully if they have grandchildren.”
Most of the items up for auction have been on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame and various sports museums. Craig’s hope, like was his desire with the lot sale last summer, is that whoever ends up with these pieces of memorabilia can display them for the public to enjoy.
We spoke with Craig in New York City Tuesday afternoon about auctioning off these historic "Miracle" items, his hockey inspirations and his thoughts on today’s Olympic format.
Q. The gold medal is the pièce de résistance in the collection. Was there any thought in somehow keeping it within the family?
CRAIG: “It’s really complicated to try and really do that when you’re being really fiscally responsible and you put on that burden, and you don’t want to have anything of that type of value to split families. I really don’t think I wanted or my wife wanted any of the kids to have that type of pressure."
Do you have any items on display at home that you’ve decided against selling?
“Oh yeah. There’s a Jim Craig man cave. [Laughs] I think my wife and kids got tired of seeing all the stuff that was available.
“But there’s memories along the way on this journey. From Massasoit Community College, where we won a national junior college championship, Boston University to Beanpots to playing in the Olympics to playing in the World Championships to the NHL, there’s plenty of stuff. I have a lot of really cool things to me that don’t take up a lot of space.”
Ken Morrow told me most of his stuff, like the jersey he wore during the game against the Soviets, was stuffed away in a closet and only taken out for charity functions a few times a year. Was that the same for you, the items that weren’t on display somewhere?
“The historic value of this was always I already had an appreciation that I could never do properly, and so as long as the facility was safe and I felt good about it, it’s been on display and that’s kind of where it’s should have been. But I’m 59 years old. It was time to take responsibility back of that. And yeah, this stuff is all tucked away. You don’t want somebody breaking into your home and stealing it.
“I always tell people when it comes to parting with something like that, ‘what would you do if you had something of this value and you had children?’ I think you’d probably do the same thing I’m doing.”
Many of the older U.S.-born players, especially those from the 1996 World Cup, has said over the years that they were inspired by you guys and the “Miracle” run. Who were you inspired by in your early hockey days?
“I was fortunate to grow up in the Boston area and when I was a young boy Bobby Orr. You watch how great he was and the injuries he went through and the way he handled himself on and off the ice, it was so impactful. We’re lucky. We got to be that to some other people. I was Bobby Orr in the driveway. Somebody probably was a Mike Eruzione or Ken Morrow or one of my other teammates.”
Did you have a goalie inspiration?
“Yeah, I had a bunch. I loved Gump Worsley. I loved Gerry Cheevers because of the way handled the puck. I really tried to take difference pieces of different players and look at it and try to incorporate it into one.”
As someone who participated in an Olympic hockey competitions with amateur players, do you miss that format or do you prefer today’s best-on-best?
“I think now where they have the World Cup that that could be their platform as professionals, much like the Ryder Cup in golf. The amateur and the passion of being an amateur before you get there, and the ability to have access to them is great. Because now you are truly having the best amateurs in the world, where before, the Cold War didn’t allow their best players to play professionally, so they had to be part of their teams.
“I think it would be more exciting. I think it would be interesting, and I think they have a venue. If they didn’t have a venue, I think, no, you want the best against the very best. When you look at it as a business thing, it’s hard for the NHL to have to stop in the middle of the season. Security becomes an issue with these players. I’d love to see it become an amateur competition again.”
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