Chris Drury

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Remembering Chris Drury’s Little League World Series conquest 30 years later

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The summer of 1989 for the Trumbull, Connecticut little league team began with crowds featuring only their parents. By the end of August, their final game of the season saw 40,000-plus people turn out at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

On the mound for Trumbull that August 26 afternoon was a cherubic two-sport star. Chris Drury had turned 13 six days earlier and was eager to continue a winning year. Just four months before the 1989 Little League World Series, the future Stanley Cup champion and U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer helped lead his pee-wee hockey team to the U.S. Amateur American Hockey Championship. His Greater Bridgeport, Conn. team went 64-2-1 en route to the title, and now Drury was trying to cap off the summer with another tournament win.

Facing Kang-Tu Little League from Taiwan, a country that had dominated the event for the previous two decades having won 13 of the 20 previous tournaments, Trumbull fell behind early but rallied with four runs in the third and fourth innings. Drury’s bases loaded two-run single extended their lead to 4-1.

After loading the bases in the top of the fifth, the Far East representatives were unable to cut the deficit any further after Drury induced a force out at third base, putting Trumbull three outs away.

“I don’t think any of us understood the magnitude of what we were doing while we were doing it,” Drury told the New York Daily News in 2009. “We were just playing baseball.”

The first two outs came way of a fly out to left field and Drury’s second strikeout of the game. When the ball came off the bat for what would end up being the final out, it first appeared like it was going over the wall as a two-run homerun, but left fielder Dan McGrath quickly settled under it on the warning track and the celebration was on.

Drury and his teammates were everywhere following their conquest in Williamsport, as documented by Sports Illustrated in 1989. They appeared on Good Morning America, met Mickey Mantle at his restaurant in New York City, visited President Bush in the White House, and attended the first two games of the 1989 World Series in Oakland, with Drury throwing out the first pitch before Game 2. There was even an appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade among the many experiences the team was a part of in the months following the championship.

The winning didn’t stop there for Drury as he got older and eventually turned his focus to hockey. He helped Boston University win an NCAA championship during his freshman year and ended his collegiate career as a Hobey Baker Award winner. As he entered the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche, Drury won the 1999 Calder Trophy as rookie of the year and two years later he won a Stanley Cup as he development a penchant for scoring big goals in the postseason. He was also a part of two silver medal winning U.S. Olympic teams in Salt Lake 2002 and Vancouver 2010.

Following his time with the Avalanche, Drury would spend a season with the Calgary Flames and three with the Buffalo Sabres before finishing his NHL career in 2011 after four years with the New York Rangers. Upon retirement, he took a job in the Rangers organization as director of player development and these days he’s the team’s assistant general manager.

The thrill of a winning a Little League World Series title stayed with Drury as he grew older and experienced success on a professional level. Nothing could top the summer of 1989.

“It made me realize at a young age how much fun winning is,” Drury told the New York Times in 2008. “I wouldn’t trade it for the Cup. I wouldn’t trade it for a national championship in college. Each one was so unique. Little League was such a big thrill at such a young age. I don’t think I could rank them. They’re all No. 1 to me.”

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Drury, Ruggiero, Schneider headline 2015 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame class

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The United States Hockey Hall of Fame announced its impressive 2015 class on Monday: Chris Drury, Angela Ruggiero, Mathieu Schneider and builder Ron DeGregorio.

Ruggiero is a trailblazer in women’s hockey, especially for the U.S. She won four Olympic medals, including a gold in Nagano. USA Hockey notes that her 256 games in a Team USA uniform tops any other player in the country’s history.

She also joined the Hockey Hall of Fame, so this has been a big year of recognition for Ruggiero.

Drury (pictured) might as well be synonymous with “winning.” He always seemed to find himself in the right spot to score big goals during his hockey career, so it’s no surprise that he enjoyed such team success: an NCAA title with Boston University in 1995, a Stanley Cup with Colorado in 2001 and strong international work. He’s also the only player to win a Calder Trophy and Hobey Baker Award.

Schneider won a Stanley Cup himself with Montreal in 1993 and was part of the World Cup of Hockey team that won it all in 1996. He was a two-time All-Star.

Here is a quick excerpt from a write-up for DeGregorio from USA Hockey:

Ron DeGregorio has helped shape American hockey for more than 40 years as one the most prominent volunteers in the history of USA Hockey and has conceived programs that have resulted in acclaim from around the world.

While DeGregorio’s ingenuity is evident in many areas, perhaps his most significant concept was starting USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in 1996. A lightning rod for criticism when it was established, the NTDP has evolved into a revered program that has significantly enhanced elite player development and U.S. success in international competition.

Rangers make Ryan Callahan their new captain, tab Marc Staal and Brad Richards as alternates

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As many expected, the New York Rangers decided to make heart-and-soul winger Ryan Callahan their new captain today. The 26-year-old forward will be joined by alternate captains Marc Staal and Brad Richards.

While the team has its fair share of hustle players in depth positions, Callahan embodies the kind of playing style that head coach John Tortorella loves to see at a high-level position. Callahan is the type of player who throws his body around with reckless abandon, which indicates that he’ll have the “lead by example” part of the job nailed down. Unfortunately, that selfless style has its downsides; Callahan’s willingness to block shots caused him to miss 22 regular season games and the team’s playoff series because of two separate injuries (a broken hand and ankle).

Even after missing all of those games, Callahan produced career highs in goals (23), assists (25) and points (48) last season. That allowed him to sign a lucrative contract extension as the Rangers avoided salary arbitration with the value forward.

Jesse Spector points out that Callahan is the team’s first homegrown captain since Brian Leetch played that role from 1997-2000. In the mean time, Mark Messier, Jaromir Jagr and Chris Drury donned the “C” in New York.

Rangers fans should be as delighted by this decision as they must have been when the team managed to retain Callahan and his partner in crime Brandon Dubinsky. Cally might have a tough time matching his breakout year in 2011-12, but even if he doesn’t light up the scoreboard at the same rate, he brings qualities to the ice that extend beyond the box scores.

That’s why he might be the best fit to wear the “C” at Madison Square Garden in quite some time.

Chris Drury retires from NHL after 12 seasons

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After 12 seasons in the NHL, Chris Drury is calling it a career and retiring from the NHL.

It’s a career that many will reflect back upon with warm thoughts and memories from being a clutch performer in Colorado with the Avalanche winning the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year in 1998-1999 and helping the team win the 2001 Stanley Cup. Even Buffalo Sabres fans can reflect up on Drury’s time there with a smile as he and Daniel Briere teamed up to bring offensive firepower to Buffalo that they haven’t seen since then.

Drury’s career spanned 892 games and saw him score 255 goals and finish with 615 points. While in Colorado, Drury was the perfect complimentary piece on those teams that featured Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. Drury’s role as a depth player and scorer saw him score 20+ goals in each of his first four seasons with the Avalanche. In his one season in Calgary courtesy of a trade, Drury showed that he could be a playmaker and scorer as he potted 20 goals and added 33 assists.

Calgary would deal Drury to Buffalo and that’s where his career took off. In three seasons with the Sabres, Drury would score 85 goals including back to back 30+ goal seasons. There, Drury would lead the Sabres to back-to-back appearances in the Eastern Conference finals losing to Carolina in 2006 and Ottawa in 2007. After that 2007 season, however, Drury would leave the Sabres as a free agent and head to Broadway to play for the Rangers.

Drury’s first two seasons in New York were solid as he totaled 58 and 56 points respectively. His final two years in New York would see him struggle with his play and then ultimately his health last season.

As Adrian Dater of The Denver Post notes, Drury will go down as a favorite of his from his days in Denver in a career that seems to have ended too soon.

It hardly seems possible his career is finished. I can still remember the first time he came to Avs camp back in 1998, just a doughy-faced kid not that far removed from being a Little League World Series hero for his town of Trumbull, Conn. I remember his first Burgundy-White game down in Colorado Springs, when he immediately got challenged to a fight by Pascal Trepanier. Drury aced his first rite of passage by standing up for himself – something almost every NHL rookie has to do at some point.

While Drury isn’t going to get much consideration for the Hockey Hall Of Fame, he does leave behind numerous great memories for NHL fans and yes, even fans of his from his Little League days. From his Calder and Stanley Cup wins in Denver, to his efforts in nearly willing the Sabres to the Stanley Cup finals two years in a row, to closing out a solid career in Manhattan he’ll always be a crowd favorite and a guy we wished could’ve kept shining brightly for a lot longer.

Update: Rangers GM Glen Sather released this statement on Drury’s retirement:

“Throughout his career, Chris Drury was always a great competitor, a tremendous leader and teammate, and the heart and soul type of player that every team would love to have.  His commitment, determination and will to win were apparent each and every day.  Those characteristics will have a lasting impact on all those who were fortunate enough to learn from Chris over his 12 years in the National Hockey League.”

Best of the rest update: The remaining top free agents on the market

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We’re over three weeks removed from the start of free agency and the signing season was quick to start and now heads into its slower days as teams rosters have filled out. While some teams have yet to get to the salary floor, the big money deals are all but over with and finding that key depth contributor to perhaps lead to a Stanley Cup run next summer can be tricky.

As it is, there’s a host of guys with famous names still out on the market and with recent salary buyouts and arbitration rejection there’s a few more interesting names out there for teams to sniff around at. By interesting we mean guys you know and might even ask, “He’s still playing?” about.

Without further ado, here’s the free agent hit-list as it stands according to the wise guys at CapGeek.

At forward you have recent buyout victims Chris Drury and J.P. Dumont. Drury’s days with the Rangers are over with and as an experienced third or fourth line center he could be useful for a team in need. Perhaps a team like Ottawa or Phoenix could stand to have a guy like him to help provide depth and leadership to the host of youth on both rosters.

If veteran centers are your thing, there’s also Mike Modano and Kris Draper who spent last year in Detroit, Todd White who spent time with the Rangers, and John Madden who played in Minnesota last year.

Dumont could bring some solid big-body depth to a team in need along the wings. He was able to do reasonably well there for Nashville over the last few seasons, but last year was a bad one for him with reduced ice time and just 11 goals.

Other wingers with some name recognition and perhaps a little bit to bring to the table include Sergei Samsonov, Alex Kovalev, Cory Stillman, and Ethan Moreau. If you want pure offense and potentially frustrating production there’s always Nikolay Zherdev whose 16 goals in 56 games with the Flyers last year showed that he’s still able to get it done in the NHL after a year in the KHL.

Teemu Selanne is still, technically, an unrestricted free agent the word out there is that if he doesn’t sign with the Anaheim Ducks again, he’s going to hang it up for good. Here’s to hoping we see Selanne back in black and orange for one more season.

At defense, the recently let go Chris Campoli heads the list of available and useful players there. The Blackhawks and Campoli went to arbitration early so the Blackhawks could refuse his arbitration victory and set him free. With older options like Bryan McCabe, Scott Hannan, Steve Staios, Steve Eminger, Craig Rivet, and Brent Sopel out there on the market, a team in need of another experienced defenseman has some options available to them.

A team like the New York Islanders that needs to reach the salary floor and has a need for more experience on the blue line could go dipping into the pool here but don’t expect Campoli to be their possible target, they’ve been there before with him. Besides, the Isles are busy with a reclamation story of a different kind.

With goalies, the availability list is short and the market may be impossible to get through. After Detroit signed Ty Conklin to be their backup goalie once again, for guys that are still out there they’ll have a hard time finding work. That means for Pascal Leclaire, Marty Turco, and Ray Emery landing an immediate NHL job may not happen. Waiting around for injuries to happen elsewhere across the league will help potentially lead to ironic headlines in the future. For Turco, it could mean an earlier start to a television career.

The pickings are slim, but there’s help to be had for some teams out there. The key will be to not make a signing end up being too foolish to make it work.