Jim Craig

Jim Craig, Olympic gold medalist and 1980 U.S.A. "Miracle on Ice" goaltender, is in demand as a motivational speaker, spokesperson, and marketing and sales coach and strategist

Jim Craig has been called the backbone of a team that accomplished one of the most extraordinary and memorable sports victories of all time. He went on to play professionally and transitioned to tremendous and ongoing success in the business world.  

Jim is in demand from coast to coast and internationally as a motivational speaker, spokesperson, marketing and sales strategist, and master storyteller.  He is president of Gold Medal Strategies, a Boston-area based promotions and marketing firm that also operates as the liaison between Jim and speakers bureaus, marketing and talent agencies, and event planners seeking to hire Jim for appearances. Over the past 25 years, Jim has inspired, instructed, and provided strategic and winning direction for employees and associates from more than 300 organizations, including Allianz, Ameriprise, Bayer Corporation, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Coca-Cola, Dunkin’ Donuts, Evergreen Financial, GE, Gore Medical, John Hancock, Monsanto, Next Financial, Pepsi, Time Inc., Walt Disney, Welch’s, and other companies that hold some of the world’s most recognized brands.

An All-American goalie at Boston University and standout for the Terriers’ 1978 NCAA championship squad, Jim was selected as the starting goaltender for the U.S. 1980 Olympic hockey team. At the Lake Placid games his performance was phenomenal. Indispensable to Team U.S.A.’s epic – what some have called miraculous – upset of the Soviet Union was the play of Jim Craig. In the game against the Soviets, the Americans were outshot 42-16, but Jim made 39 saves, many of the spectacular variety, and his teammates scored four times. Two days later, against Finland, Jim was again superb, and the Yanks won, 4-2, to take Olympic gold. 

How incredible was the victory over the Soviets? Consider that as the 20th century came to a close, most major media sports polls selected what happened two decades prior in Lake Placid, as the number one sports episode of the previous 100 years. 

“It may just be the single most indelible moment in all of U.S. sports history,” said Sports Illustrated of Team USA’s win over the Soviet Union.  “One that sent an entire nation into frenzy.” 

Following the Olympic Games, Jim Craig played in the NHL where he started for the Atlanta Flames, Boston Bruins, and Minnesota North Stars.  While in net for the North Stars, Jim sustained an injury that ended his professional hockey career.  Jim is enshrined in the Boston University Athletic Hall of Fame, the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame, the United State Hockey Hall of Fame, and the United States Olympic Hall of Fame. 

When Jim retired from pro hockey, he pursued a marketing and sales career with the same passion, focus, work ethic, and dedication that he put forth on the ice. He signed on as marketing and sales consultant for Valassis Inserts, owned by Australian media magnate Kerry Packer’s Consolidated Press Holdings and the largest freestanding newspaper insert company in the U.S. While with Valassis Inserts and later Valassis Communications (also owned by Consolidated Press Holdings), Jim took an operating unit that had $300,000 in annual sales and over a 10 year period built it to unit that did $50 million in annual sales, the top sales-producing division of the corporation. During these years, Jim received “Salesman of the Year” awards from the Marketing Corporation of America and Valassis Communications. 

Jim left Valassis in 2005 to become the top salesman of Hat Trick Group, a company that creates and produces promotions, incentive marketing, and custom premium programs and products.  Under his stewardship and guidance, Hat Trick Group developed new products and services and increased annual dollar sales by 80 percent and its number of clients by 30 percent.   

In 2007, Jim directed his competitive zeal and devotion to innovation and teamwork to the launch and operation of Gold Medal Strategies.  Still in its infancy, the firm has as growing roster of highly satisfied clients all receiving premium value and competitive advantage.   

Jim has volunteered for several years as a youth hockey coach and contributes to and supports many philanthropic organizations and causes, including taking to the ice with the Boston Bruins Alumni to play in benefit games.   

Jim and his wife, Sharlene (Charlie), have been married for 20 years.  They have a teenage son and daughter, both of whom are talented hockey players, neither of whom play goalie. 

Rebounding from Setback and Defeat
Herb Brooks was the final player cut from the 1960 U.S. Olympic hockey team that went on to win the gold medal at the Squaw Valley games. He was cut after sitting for the official team picture. What had happened is that the coach of that team, Jack Riley, had been trying to recruit 1956 U.S. Olympic team star Bill Cleary, and just prior to the games, Cleary said he would join the team, but with the stipulation that his brother Bob be on the team as well. Riley said okay, and Brooks was cut to make room. (In the official team picture Bob Cleary’s head is pasted over Herb Brooks’s.) The Cleary boys were a major reason that the U.S. won the gold medal. After the U.S. won the gold medal, Herb Brooks’s father, Herb Sr., said to his son, “Well, I guess the coach cut the right guy.” Brooks played on the 1964 and 1968 teams, but neither team won a medal. And the experience of being cut from the 1960 team fueled and fired an obsessive desire to coach just the right team to play almost the perfect game of hockey.

Innovation and Strategic Change
U.S. Olympic hockey team coach Herb Brooks shook up U.S. amateur hockey, the way it prepared and the way it played. Brooks oversaw and directed a schedule of practice and games that was far more rigorous and grueling than that underwent by other U.S. Olympic hockey teams. And Brooks taught his team to play a revolutionary and highly innovative game, one that combined the bruising and dump-and-chase Canadian form with the fast-moving, elegant, and frequent passing style of the Soviets.

Peak Performance
“In some ways, what we accomplished was not a miracle,” says Jim Craig in an ESPN interview. “It was the result of a coach with unbelievable passion who picked the right team and we executed his vision flawlessly.” Team USA peaked at the right time. In the locker room prior to the game against the Soviet Union, Herb Brooks told his team, “Nine of out ten times we play this team, they would beat us. But not tonight because tonight is our night, tonight we win.”

Recruiting “What It Takes To Be A Gold Medal Winner”
It is famously said of Coach Herb Brooks that when he recruited players for the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, he didn’t necessarily pick the “best” players but he did pick the “right” ones. In the summer of 1979, Herb Brooks was at the National Sports Festival in Colorado Springs scouting for the right players for the Olympic team. In his New York Times bestselling book (for which Jim Craig wrote the foreword), The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team, Wayne Coffey wrote that at Colorado Springs “Brooks wasn’t necessarily eyeing the most talented players or the most prolific scorers – all-star teams don’t win games, he kept telling his players – but for those most willing to rewire their games to embrace his system, skate hard and fast, and fit together as a whole.”