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Three decades later, Olympic rivalry mellows for Craig

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

"This is a big event for me, to see my old friends, my rivals -- we're just really happy to see each other again. Even though they beat me in the (game), that was then and this is now. We look at each other totally differently now. It's a friendship and nothing else."
-- Vladimir Myshkin on Jim Craig

NEW YORK -- In celebration of the upcoming 30-year anniversary of the "Miracle on Ice" at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, the opposing goalies playing in the most significant game in USA Hockey history shared a laugh and exchanged jerseys on the ice at Rockefeller Center.

There on Wednesday was American-born Jim Craig standing shoulder to shoulder with Russian Olympian Vladimir Myshkin. The two were accompanied by Team USA captain Mike Eruzione, backup goalie Steve Janaszak and 2010 Olympic hopeful David Backes.

The U.S. Olympic Committee kicked off the 100-day countdown to the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver on Wednesday by inviting numerous Olympic hopefuls and past legends to the New York City tourist destination.

Myshkin, of course, replaced legendary goalie Vladislav Tretiak after the first period of Team USA's miraculous 4-3 victory against the Soviets on Feb. 22, 1980. He would face only two shots in the second -- stopping both -- but yielded goals to Mark Johnson and Mike Eruzione in the third.

"This is a big event for me, to see my old friends, my rivals -- we're just really happy to see each other again," Myschkin told NHL.com through an interpreter. "Even though they beat me in the (game), that was then and this is now. We look at each other totally differently now. It's a friendship and nothing else."

The idea to swap jerseys was presented to Myshkin by Craig some 10 minutes before the group walked onto the ice here in Manhattan.

"I already have an autographed jersey of Vladimir Lochenko," Craig told Myshkin just prior to strolling out with his Russian friend.

"I never really got a chance to even meet (Myshkin) other than to play against him (in 1980), so it's a great honor," Craig said. "I became really good friends with Vladimir Lochenko from the Russian Red Army. He helped coach my kids, so this Cold War thing ended with us a long, long time ago. I think we can really appreciate each other and it's great for the game, the sport and the Olympics."

When asked if he was surprised Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov replaced Tretiak with Myshkin on that unforgettable February day in 1980, Craig shrugged.

"I was so busy focusing on my own deal that I really didn't put too much thought into it," he said. "I guess I was surprised in a way, but that team was such a great team -- I don't think they cared who played goal."

Craig's career-defining moment occurred in that game against the Soviets, when he stopped 36 shots to lead Team USA to one of the most monumental triumphs in American sports history.

"There was a tremendous amount of pressure on Jim that tournament," Janaszak said. "When you go back and watch the tapes now, from a goaltender's perspective, it's amazing how well he played. He was never out of position and ready for every shot. And to do that under that pressure, for a guy like (coach Herb) Brooks, who puts a tremendous amount of pressure on his goalies, was pretty special."

Myshkin, visiting the Big Apple for the first time in 20 years, can recall the loss to the Americans as if it were yesterday.

"I wasn't surprised (I replaced Tretiak)," Myshkin said. "We were always taught to be ready at any minute, so I didn't think twice about it. I just went in and did the best I could. I can tell you it was hard to take that loss, though. Everyone was very, very disappointed when we returned home."

Myshkin did rebound, however, and helped backstop the Soviets to a gold medal at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.

"As a goalie, sometimes the only shots you get are really tough shots and (Myshkin) came in at a really difficult situation (in 1980)," Craig said. "Their country was supposed to win, it was during the middle of the game in Lake Placid; so it was difficult. He's a great player and was able to win a gold the next Olympic year."

Eruzione, clad in a white Team USA jersey, is excited another Olympic year is around the corner.

"This is great to get together like this," said Eruzione. "It's a great tribute to the Olympic Games in all of our athletes and all the sports. The Olympics are 100 days away and a lot of young men and women are excited about the opportunity they're going to have. Jim and I and other former Olympians are just happy to be associated with all of it."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com
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