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The Winner (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday April 10, 2007 10:12AM; Updated: Tuesday April 10, 2007 3:50PM
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By S.L. Price

Chris, sandwiched by Ted (left) and Jim, never sat for long as a kid.
Chris, sandwiched by Ted (left) and Jim, never sat for long as a kid.
Courtesy of the Drury family

"You want a goal, you're in overtime -- you want him," says the 37-year-old Sakic, who holds the record for OT playoff goals, with seven. "He loves that time. His level of play rises." Drury isn't the only one in the NHL whose heart rate slows at such crucial moments, of course; he ranked second this season in game-winners, with nine. "But if you do a poll [of players, asking] who you'd want in that situation," Sakic says, "his would be the first name to come up. He's done it so often."

So those who know, wait. That game in Pittsburgh is nationally televised, so when the announcer on TV echoes the man in Mellon Arena and says, "Final minute of play here," the long-suffering natives lining bars along Buffalo's Elmwood strip pay attention. Hockey fans in Trumbull, Boston and Denver don't change the channel. And in a condominium not far from Fenway Park, a 31-year-old man named Travis Roy, pecking at his computer keyboard with a 14-inch stick held in his teeth, stops. He is paralyzed from the neck down, but there's a patch of life in his right biceps, just enough for Roy to move his right hand atop the joystick on his electric wheelchair. The weight of his hand depresses the stick. Roy jerks his arm back. He backs the chair up, then angles it slightly to the right, giving him a full view of the TV screen.

Let's see. That's how the thought drops into Roy's head this time. Let's see if Chris is going to do it again.

What makes a winner? Considering that this is sport's central question, the one agonized over by coaches, general managers, owners, parents and fans, considering how winners such as Yogi Berra and Michael Jordan are still revered, it's remarkable that even those who wear the label find the question difficult to answer. After an initial stab at familiar terms -- luck, confidence, hard work -- there comes the flutter of ums, a pause and then surrender: "I can't explain it," Sakic says of Drury. "I can't explain what he does."

Or in the words of Scotty Bowman, who won the Stanley Cup nine times as a head coach and, with the Red Wings, fell victim to Drury's overtime game-winner in Game 2 of the '02 Western Conference finals, "It's hard to describe. We had one in Detroit with [Steve] Yzerman; they're not big guys. You look at them game in, game out -- and you still don't know how they can do it."


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