Craig Simpson launched his hockey career with the hometown Junior B London Diamonds before making the leap to Michigan State University. There, he played two strong seasons and soon found himself selected 2nd overall in the 1985 Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With the Pens, Simpson made steady progress during his two and a half-year stay, but the club itself faltered. With their eyes on defenseman Paul Coffey as tonic, the Pens sent Simpson among others to Edmonton just in time to plunge into the "Battle of Alberta"?the cross-provincial rivalry that spewed volcanic dust between the Oilers and Flames.
In the transition, Simpson thought he had died and went to hockey heaven. He promptly received tutelage from his idol, Wayne Gretzky, and, rather than languish on a third or fourth line, was tossed on left wing with Mark Messier and Glenn Anderson.
Simpson's numbers exploded. By season's end he'd scored a career-high 56 goals. Better yet, he won his first of two Stanley Cups that year. After defeating the Bruins in the Garden, Simpson sat in the stands, wearing his game underwear, to reflect on the win and to etch the moment into his mind for life.
He had the good fortune to savoir another league championship in 1990, this time minus their team leader, Wayne Gretzky. Simpson sustained his Oilers career for three additional seasons before rounding out his NHL days with the Buffalo Sabres. In the end, chronic back trouble forced him into retirement at age 28.