When Chris Drury was set to leave his accomplished collegiate hockey career at Boston University behind and begin life in the National Hockey League he admits to being "fortunate" that there was a long list of mentors there to pave the way for his adjustment, not only to the pro game, but to the life of a professional athlete.
Now as the newly-named Director of Player Development with the Rangers, Drury will have the opportunity to help prepare the organization's prospects for what lies ahead of them in their journey to one day wearing the Blueshirt he once so proudly wore for four seasons, including three with the captain's C on his chest.
"It's a position that really excites me, helping prospects and kids in Hartford and all our young players hoping to make it to the NHL," Drury explained to BlueshirtsUnited.com on Friday. "There's such a fine line if you make it or not because there are so many great players in the game. Sometimes, though, there's just a little bump you need to get over in order to make it, and in this position it excites me to hopefully help those kids get better and be better for the New York Rangers."
In the eyes of Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton, Drury is the perfect fit for such a position within the organization.
"There's an obvious attraction to someone like Chris when you look at his pedigree as an NHL player, as someone who has won at every level, that's been a captain--there's such a big resume here," explained Gorton after the hiring was announced. "We think he can add so much to our staff and organization."
A 1989 Little League World Series hero and champion from Trumbull, CT, Drury won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player for the 1997-98 season. A year later he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie while playing for the Colorado Avalanche, and in 2000-01 he helped lead the Avalanche to a Stanley Cup championship.
Drury would end up playing 12 seasons in the National Hockey League and along the way gained the reputation as a "big-game" clutch player. He represented the United States in three Olympics, helping Team USA grab silver medals in 2002 and 2010. Drury also captained both the Buffalo Sabres and the Rangers before retiring in 2011 due to a knee issue.
Just last month Drury was elected to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
However when you ask Drury about his successes he is quick to point out that he had people--beginning with his older brother Ted, who was also an NHLer--there to help him every step of the way--a role he will now embrace working for the Rangers.
"When I first started talking to Jeff about this job I told him that I was so lucky to have my brother and to have good mentors--so many guys along the way who showed you how to act, how to play, how to get things done on and off the ice," offered the 39 year-old Drury. "But I told him that not everyone has that. So to be able to work with these kids in (his new position) will be so rewarding."
Drury will officially begin his new job on September 10, attending the prospects practice at the MSG Training Center before flying out to Michigan with them for the Traverse City Tournament. After that he will be present at training camp and take things from there with his new position.
"I want to learn as much and as best as I can. That's my goal at the start."
Gorton, the team's new general manager, believes that the role Drury will be undertaking--and a similar one Adam Graves will continue in--is vital in this day and age to the long range success of the team.
"There's no question that drafting and developing is the biggest key to any successful franchise in the league today, and it's becoming more and more important," stated Gorton. "It's a smart move for us to spend as much time and effort in development. Adam Graves is extremely good at it, but I feel like adding another person to help with that is important. And Chris isn't just another person. He's one who's had a lot of success and carried himself really well. I'm really excited to have Chris come back to the Rangers."
The fact that Drury played for the Rangers, was its captain, and was so familiar with the organization was a key factor to both Gorton and Drury himself when the new job was discussed by the two men.
"There's no question, the fact that he's a former Ranger is a huge part of us wanting him here," said Gorton. "It's a great opportunity for us to have somebody who has done it here, played here, been a captain here, and kind of knows what goes along with it. That's definitely a big part of the hiring."
Added Drury, "This organization is first class in every aspect. Everyone who has ever played here knows how well you get treated; and there's not any door not opened or rock left unturned when it comes to making the team better. I played here and loved it; and obviously I grew up a huge Rangers fan, too, thrilled when we won in '94, growing up nearby in Connecticut. It's just such a honor to be back in the organization again."