Craig Hartsburg's career in hockey has been a study in poise and grace under pressure since he began playing as a junior in 1974. After three seasons the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and a WJC appearance for Team Canada, Hartsburg decided to turn pro. He skipped his fourth year of juniors to sign with the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA, who took him as an underage free agent in 1978.
In his first professional season, Hartsburg scored nine goals and totaled 40 assists. Minnesota drafted him with their first pick, sixth overall, in the 1979 Entry Draft. He was quick out of the gate with North Stars, earning two assists in his first NHL game, and his first NHL goal came just a few nights later. He continued to impress the coaching staff with his poise and steady point production and so played in 79 games in his debut season. He played the next three full seasons with the North Stars, recording a career-high 17 goals and 60 assists in 1981-82. He also found time that season to represent Canada in the Canada Cup and the World and European Championships.
He played in the NHL All-Star game in 1980,1982, and 1983. During the 1983-84 and 1984-85 seasons, he was sidelined with recurring knee problems and managed to play only a few dozen games in each year. Hartsburg was back in good form for 1985-86 and 1986-87, once again playing in almost every game and hitting double digits in goals and assists. He again represented Canada in international tournaments, earning accolades for his performance in both the WEC and Canada Cup tournaments. He missed part of each of the next two seasons due to recurring injuries.
After spending his entire NHL career with the Minnesota North Stars, Hartsburg made another transition, this time to an assistant coaching position for the team with whom he had spent the last ten years. He then became an assistant with the Philadelphia Flyers for a year before moving into the head coaching job with the Guelph Platers of the OHL. The following season, he was named head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks; ironically, one of his most detested rivals while working for the North Stars. Hartsburg nonetheless coached the Hawks for the next three seasons before moving into the head coaching position for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. For the better part of three seasons, Hartsburg was the bench boss in Anaheim before being replace midseason in 2000-01. After his stint in Anaheim Hartsburg returned to Philadelphia as an assistant coach.