The most recent in the long line of the "Royal Family of Hockey," Craig Patrick was destined to a life in the puck game from the moment he was born. His grandfather was the legendary Lester Patrick, the Rangers' first GM and the 41-year-old who went into net during the 1928 playoffs and backstopped his Blueshirts to a remarkable 2-1 win over the Montreal Maroons as an emergency replacement. His father was Lynn, who also played for and coached in New York, and uncle Murray "Muzz" Patrick, who also played with the team. Lynn and Muzz won the 1940 Stanley Cup with the Rangers, and Lester and Lynn are Honoured Members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Craig came into this world while his dad was coaching the Boston Bruins. He learned how to skate at the Boston Garden, and he learned how to shoot from no other source than the inestimable Johnny Bucyk. At 14, Craig was packed off to Montreal to live with a family and play hockey in city leagues, just as Lynn and Murray had been sent to that hockey hub by Lester in the 1930s.
Craig proved skilled enough to earn a scholarship to Denver University, and playing with Cliff Koroll, Mike Christie, Keith Magnuson, and brother, Glenn, the school won NCAA championships in 1968 and '69. He graduated with a degree in Business Administration and joined the U.S. National Team program where he stayed two years. He played in both the 1970 and '71 World Championships for the United States while he was in the Army and also helped coach at West Point during this time. He signed with California in the NHL as a free agent at the start of the 1971-72 season.
Like most of the great general managers, Patrick had a modest playing career. A left-hand shot who skated on the right wing, he played three and a half years with the Seals (including briefly with his brother in California in 1974-75), but then between 1975 and 1979 he played for three teams -- St. Louis, Kansas City, and Washington. None of these teams was very good, and in an eight-year, 401-game career, Patrick appeared in just two playoff games.
Along the way, Patrick played for Team USA at the 1976 Canada Cup, played briefly for the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA, and captained the U.S. entry in the 1979 World Championships in Moscow. He retired as a player in 1979 and shortly thereafter was named assistant general manager and assistant coach for the USA entry at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.
Patrick's administrative stock shot through the roof in the early winter of 1980 when the U.S. stunned the world with the famous "Miracle on Ice" gold medal victory. He became the first assistant GM in 1980, and then head coach just 20 games into the 1980-81 season. At year's end, he was named GM of the New York Rangers on June 14, 1981, at 34 - the youngest man to rise to that position and taking the same position his grandfather had had more than half a century earlier. One of his first tasks on Broadway was to hire his USA coach, Herb Brooks, which he did for the start of the 1981-82 season.
For the next five years, the Rangers never missed the playoffs. Patrick left the team in 1986 and accepted the position of director of athletics and recreation at his alma mater, University of Denver, a position he held for three years until he was hired as coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins in December 1989. He finished out the season behind the bench and then became the team's GM, leading the club to two Stanley Cups in 1991 and '92 with the great Mario Lemieux as captain.
He is responsible for hiring "Badger" Bob Johnson as coach, Scotty Bowman as director of player personnel, and drafting Jaromir Jagr in 1990. Patrick is the longest-serving GM in franchise history and currently ranks second to New Jersey's Lou Lamoriello as longest-serving GM in today's NHL. He acted as interim coach in 1996-97 and re-hired old friend Herb Brooks at the end of the 1999-2000 season on an interim basis. Patrick was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996.