Jim Craig, the goalie, spent Thursday night alone in his room, watching a rerun of "10" and waiting for a call that never came.

Gerry Cheevers, once his idol, now his coach, never called to say Craig would be starting for the Bruins.The dream was benched for another night.

"I'll never do that again," said Craig, who has not played in five weeks. "It's like when I had a girlfriend I loved and I waited around for her to call."

Maybe Jim Craig needs to fall in love again, the way America fell in love with him as he stood in the center of the rink in Lake Placid wrapped up in the flag and his search for his father. Without his mask, you could see the goaltender for what he was: as vulnerable as he was self-assured.

Now, you see mostly the vulnerability. "You know that feeling, when you've done something and you're almost embarrassed that you did it. That's the type of hurt I feel now. Not that you're disappointed or ashamed. But you have absolutely no say."

He is frustrated, disappointed, and won't say he isn't hurt. Damn right, he wants to play.

But, he says, "I've grown up enough to learn that you don't go up to the coach and say, 'I gotta do it.'" tCraig says he has grown up more in one year than most people do in 10. Make that 20. "I hate the word cynical," he says. "I've become aware."

And wary: of being misquoted, of being misunderstood.

"When I was younger, people always said I couldn't do this, and I couldn't do that and it brought the best out in me. Now it's the opposite. People say, 'Ya gotta do this and ya gotta do that.' My personality has changed. I can't say, 'I want to go play tonight, I know I can play,' because people will say, 'Who the hell is he?' Now it's not 'He can't do it.' It's 'He can't do enough.'"

Certainly in Boston. When he was traded to the Bruins in June, it seemed only logical. He was going home. His life had a kind of symmetry. But the storybook was running out of pages.

"I was too naive," he said. "If there ever was a time when I was day-dreaming, it was then. But I have no regrets. This year has been there for a reason. I'm a stronger person. There never going to be a tougher time. If there is, I don't want it to hurry."

Six days after winning the gold medal, he won his first NHL game in Atlanta for the Flames. One day not long after, he found a naked woman waiting for him in his hotel room in Chicago, an experience he found "downgrading to myself." He waited outside until she left.

In 1980, he developed a tension ulcer and became the chairman of so many diseases, he says, "If I died today, I'd be chairman of the disease."

At year's end, when Sports Illustrated presented the U.S. hockey team with its Sportmen of the Year award, a reporter asked him: "How did you guys plan to have that flag draped?'" Craig said. "I almost choked her. Yeah, sure, and we knew we would win, 4-2, too."

On Feb. 5, the Bruins recalled Marco Baron from their Springfield, Mass., farm team and made him the second-string goalie behind Rogie Vachon. They wanted Craig, 9-7-6 in 23 games with a 3.60 goals against average, to go to Springfield to improve some technical flaws in his game, and get some consistent playing time.

"He chose not to," said Harry Sinden, Bruin general manager, "and we allowed him not to go.

"I asked Gerry if he (Craig) had a chance to be the No. 1 goalie some day. He said yes. In that case, I did not want to force his retirement by sending him down. I don't want to lose him over something silly."

Craig says he has no regrets about his decision, that he still feels he can make the necessary adjustments in his play during practice. "I needed some time to regroup," he said, "and they've given me that. I didn't want them to force me into a hasty decision and that's what that would have done."

He was asked whether he thought his decision had angered the Bruins' management and he answered with a smile. Craig speechless? "Oh, no, not at all," he said, deadpan. "What was the question? It's possible," he said.

When Vachon was injured on March 8, it seemed Craig might get a chance to add another chapter to his fairy tale. "I thought of it right away,' Craig said. "'There's my chance.' But realistically, I knew it wasn't.

He says he has worked hard in practice, that he knows he can help the team. "Maybe I had lost a little of my competitive edge," he said. "It's back. But I can't prove it."

When Cheevers decided to play Baron against the Capitals Friday night, Craig said, "It's not a good sign, for sure."

Asked when Craig might play, CHEEVERS SAID, you never can tell. I'd like to see him get in another game."

And what of Craig's future?Sinden said, "I don't think he'll be back if he doesn't get to play some this year. We can't make that decision (just) so he'll be back. We made an exception by letting him refuse to go down. I don't think we'll make the second exception and play him, unless it's good for the team, just so he won't quit next year."

Craig says he has no plans to do anything but play hockey, "I finally came to the realization of what I can do and what I can't do. I'll be 24 in May. I asked myself, 'Are you good emough? Do you want to do this?' The answer is yes."

But he says he may have no control over what happens. There are other NHL teams close to Boston -- Hartford, for example. "So is Springfield," he replied.

The only decision that would bother him, he says, is if he wanted to leave -- "just made the decision that I didn't want to play anymore" -- and people said it was because he didn't want to go to the minors.

Hockey is a job now, not a dream come true. The question, Craig says, has become, "Is is the best job for me to be happy all my life? That still runs through my mind, mostly because I'm not playing.

"How the hell do I know now (what I'm going to do)? If I'm not good enough, I'll do something else. I'll be a plumber."

He seems a bit numb. "e have no idea how I feel. I can't catch up to it.

"Somedays, I think I'm gonna play and I get all excited," he said. "Some days, I think I'm never going to play and it's like the school year. You can't wait for it to end."

Some things have remained constants, even if hockey has not -- his values, for example: getting his brother into college; spending time with his father, his sister, Susan, a beautician who gave him a perm, and his grandmother who says a mass for him if she doesn't see him smile in a game.

What, heis asked, would his mother tell him if she were alive? "She'd say, 'Let's separate the men from the boys,'" he said. "You'll be among the men.'"

He wanted to do everything so right in Boston, so, Craig said, "I did everything I could to please everyone but myself. I got everything out of the dream I could. Now it's work. I can leave it there."

Well, not quite. He asks about the theme of this story. He is told he is the theme. "Well, don't say there are no more miracles on ice," he said. "If I believed that, I'd retire."