Under a cape of stars and stripes at Lake Placid, N.Y., in 1980, Jim Craig was everybody's favorite all-America.
The gold-medal performance of the U.S. Olympic hockey team had made heroes of all the players, but especially Craig, the goaltender. Television cameras caught and replayed endlessly a little scene now etched in the nation's collective memory.
"Where's my father?" Craig mouthed the words as his eyes scanned the hysterical crowd after the final game. "Where's my father?" America loved it.
Since then, Craig's fortunes have taken a tumble. His hoped-for career in the National Hockey League abruptly became a trip to the minors. He has suffered several injuries that have kept him from establishing consistency in his game.
And last weekend, the fading glow from Lake Placid was diminished even more by Craig's involvement in a traffic accident on Cape Cod in which one woman was killed and two others injured.
Craig faces misdemeanor charges for that incident, in which he was driving his new BMW around a bend on rain-slicked Rte. 6 when, he said, he swerved to the left to avoid a car headed at him. Craig insists he was driving on the right side of the road.
"The road had been shortened because of repairs," said Bob Woolf, Craig's agent. "Jimmy had to swerve left, because there are woods along the right." Woolf said he has since learned that several accidents have taken place in that area.
Craig tore some shoulder muscles in the crash, which killed Margaret Curry of New Bedford, Mass., and injured Patricia Belliveau and driver Ingrid Olson, both of Westport, Mass.
Woolf said Craig has not been formally charged yet, although application for a complaint of vehicular homicide and driving to endanger has been made. A hearing will be scheduled in about a month to determine if there is enough evidence to pursue the case.
Following reports of the accident, Craig came under fire for alleged disorderly conduct in a May 7 incident on Cuttyhunk Island near Martha's Vineyard. "It happened a month ago, and Jimmy was not cited then," fumed Woolf. "Why now?"
In that incident, Craig had driven his two younger brothers and three friends to the island in his new speedboat. According to police, the group was drinking beer and verbally abusing residents, and had vandalized a phone booth.
Originally, only the other five were scheduled to appear in Edgartown district court for a June 10 hearing on the disorderly conduct charge. Now Jim Craig's name has been added to the list.
"Doing that to him now is just adding to the hardship of somebody in a difficult situation," said Woolf. "This makes it sound as if it just happened."
Craig refuses to talk about either situation. He is staying with Woolf's family this week and, Woolf said, "He was so shook after the tragedy, he couldn't eat for three days."
Before the accident, he and Woolf had spent four days in California, contemplating some potential television projects.
"We met with the producer of 'CHiPs' and the director of 'Happy Days' and both were very enthusiastic," said Woolf. "In fact, everywhere we went, there was great interest in Jimmy."
But Craig as a hot property has cooled considerably since the Olympics. After the Games, he signed with the then-Atlanta Flames. He and his widowed father Don appeared in a soft drink commercial, and he read for a part in the television series "Love Boat."
Craig's presence in Atlanta, it was hoped, would create enough local interest in that woebegone franchise to keep the team from leaving town.
But in spite of a sellout for Craig's initial game, the Flames moved to Calgary and shipped Craig to his hometown Bruins.
Ingredients for a storybook script quickly soured. Craig played in only a handful of games for Boston, and won no new friends when he began diagramming the Olympic team's power play in practice. Near the one-year anniversary of the victory in Lake Placid, Boston General Manager Harry Sinden announced Craig needed seasoning in the minors. Craig and Bob Murray, his agent at the time, said Craig would quit if he were sent down.
But Craig realized he needed ice time if he hoped to stay in the game. Assigned to the Bruins' Erie farm team last season, Craig began to have physical problems: a broken thumb, a growth on the shoulder, a broken foot from a fall off a ladder while painting his house and back trouble that kept him in traction instead of in goal.
And yet, Craig still wants to play hockey. "No question, that's what he's going to do," said his younger brother Danny. Woolf said his client is determined to play, if not for Boston, somewhere else in the NHL.
But now Craig's golden dream, dogged by persistent reality, might be too far from Lake Placid to recapture.