ST. LOUIS - Leading a team during a rebuilding period can be the most difficult, but also the most crucial, role of a captain's career. That's why St. Louis fans held so much respect for Dallas Drake, who captained the club from 2005 - 2007 following a season-long lockout.
For Drake, it wasn't about putting on a show or getting attention. It was about grit and hard work every day of his 15-season NHL career.
In his six years in St. Louis, the winger totaled 170 regular season points. He also had four goals and two assists during the 2000-01 playoff run, helping the team to the Western Conference Final.
We caught up with Drake from his home in Michigan to talk about his leadership role, what he loves about St. Louis and how hockey still keeps him busy.
BLUES: During your time in St. Louis, you saw some of the franchise's highest and lowest points. What did it mean to you to be given the responsibility of leading the team during the crucial rebuilding season following the lockout?
DRAKE: Anytime you're a captain in the NHL it's quite an honor. For the coaching staff to believe that I was capable of doing that meant a lot to me. Obviously we were in a transition phase with a lot of young up-and-coming players, so that was good for me. I enjoyed the fact that I could help them on and off the ice as much as I could. It's a pretty special feeling to be a captain in an NHL franchise, especially for a team like St. Louis.
BLUES: We've talked to some of your teammates from the 2000-01 season who feel like the team really could have gone all the way that year. What was it like to be on that team your first season in St. Louis?
DRAKE: That was a very special year. I remembered that year for a while. We could've won the Stanley Cup as easily as any of those teams that finished there. That was probably my favorite memory from my time in St. Louis. The energy in the city and around the team at that time is something I'll always remember.
BLUES: Speaking of the energy in the city, there's a similar feel right now with the Winter Classic approaching. Knowing this fan base, what do you think about the outdoor game coming to St. Louis?
DRAKE: It's such a good community. They're very well deserving. The way the people there support all their franchises and teams…they bleed a lot of the colors through the wins and the losses and the ups and downs. I've always seen it as a blue-collar city, and whether it's the Cardinals or the Blues, the fan base is well deserving of getting something like that.
BLUES: How much are you looking forward to playing in the Winter Classic Alumni Game?
DRAKE: I guess we'll see once I get my skates on! I obviously don't skate much anymore, but I do every once in awhile. I still coach my kids so I get my skates underneath me a little bit. But actually competing and skating at a higher pace might be somewhat of a struggle for me, but it'll be fun!
BLUES: When you get a chance to return to St. Louis, is there anything in particular you always like to do?
DRAKE: Well, I know I will drink Bud Light while I'm there…that's always good! (Laughing). But, my biggest thing when I go back is seeing people I haven't seen in a while. We have a lot of close friends and old neighbors we like to catch up with when we're there.
BLUES: What's it like getting involved in your kids' hockey careers?
DRAKE: It's great. I've had a chance to coach all my kids growing up and I really enjoy it…not just helping my kids but all the others too. It's something I really have cherished over the last few years. Two of my kids have moved on, and now I have my nine-year-old that I'm kind of starting all over with. It's something special and I'm trying to enjoy it as much as I can because I know I won't be able to do it again.
BLUES: Does anything else keep you busy these days?
DRAKE: I'm an avid fisherman and do that every chance I can in the summer, spring and fall. My youngest enjoys it as well, so we'll get out on our kayaks on the lake, play around and fish a little bit. Since my other two kids have moved on and are still playing, I travel as much as I can to watch them…so a lot of time is spent just traveling around to watch my kids. That's what I enjoy doing!