It's telling that
in the weeks after, when everyone in Buffalo was calling Neil a cheap-shot
artist and the NHL took the usual heat for its thuggery, the low-key voice on
the issue was Drury's. He refused to say whether he thought the hit was dirty.
He talked about being more careful. Pulling a Braveheart would've been the easy
way to fire up his team for the stretch run. But that's not Drury's way.
"He's never going 100 miles an hour, then 50, then 100," Regier says,
moving his hand in a steady slow line. "He's always at 60. He does not
quit, but that doesn't mean, I WILL NOT QUIT! It's, I do not quit. It's all
quiet. There is no flash. There's just the constant movement. So you look at
that and say, I wonder if he can teach that?"
joined the Sabres--acquired from the Flames--the locker room music stayed on
loud and long before games, and no one hit the weight room after. Drury walked
in his first day and turned off the stereo. "I thought, What's wrong with
this guy?" says Buffalo defenseman Brian Campbell. Late during an
exhibition game in 2003, one rookie teammate fired off a sloppy pass that led
to a scoring chance for the opponents. They didn't score. The Sabres led by
four goals. Drury still chewed the rookie out, and when the player retorted
that it was only preseason, Drury said, "I don't care. Don't ever do that
again." He made a point of sidling up to Miller, then a rookie unsure of
how to challenge Biron, and said, "You going to take this job or
"It made me
feel like it was O.K. to do what I needed to do," Miller says.
The players knew
Drury's history. Everyone began watching how he prepared, stretched, made sure
to eat the blandest food to guard against stomach upset. One by one after
games, they began hitting the weights. They saw how he still loved the action,
how he has to score during practice drills, how, even after Miller blocks his
shot, Drury will hover around the net waiting for the puck: just one more shot.
And they began to know that the player with the most remarkable r�sum� refused
to consider himself remarkable at all. "I'm not extraordinary," Drury
says. "I have to work extremely hard because that's how I'm going to
succeed. If I coasted or put on weight or didn't work on my game in the summer
or didn't lift, I'd take a step back. I would never say, 'I'm good enough.'
There's not time enough in the day for me to work on stuff I need to work
Quietly, and in
perfect concert with Briere, Drury took hold of the locker room. As the team
started to win last season, Drury gradually let the music play later and later.
He asked that the club put a picture of the Stanley Cup on the wall, to remind
everyone what they're playing for. He protected the team from distractions,
shutting down an in-game conversation this season between a local TV
personality and a trainer, even barring Quinn from entering the locker room one
morning because the team was about to meet. "I don't know any former
captains who would've said that to me," Quinn says. "But I loved that.
It's his room."
Drury racked up a
career-high 37 goals and 69 points this season, but while he has improved his
offensive production, he hasn't slacked off in the categories--face-offs, power
plays, blocked shots, penalty-killing--that win games but never awards.
has benefited more from Drury's presence than Briere, acquired from Phoenix
late in the 2002--03 season. The 29-year-old Quebecois grew up in a hockey
breeding ground but--despite a 60-point season with the Coyotes in
2001--02--could barely convince himself he belonged in the NHL. But he began
copying Drury's game-day routine, picked his brain, imitated his calm during
tight moments. He learned what it takes to win.
everybody around the room a lot about it--when the game's on the line, how to
step up," says Briere, the 2007 All-Star Game MVP who scored two overtime
game-winners in last spring's playoffs. "Believing that you're the player
who's going to make a difference is the beginning of everything."
win and to know how to make it contagious--is rare, of course, and the irony in
Drury's case is that his gift grew out of the most average conditions. His
career is a triumph of the normal. He and Rory have two children. He does no
commercials or photo shoots, has no signature goal celebration, speaks
sparingly to the media. He absorbed early the values of hard work, excellence
and loyalty and never deviated. Why? Because they worked. They paid off early.
Chris Drury won, and then kept winning.
"I do think
when it happens once, you draw on it," Ted Drury says. "And it happens
again, you have two things to draw on, and it keeps happening, and you have
more to draw on. Then you come to this random game against Pittsburgh in the
middle of March and there's seven seconds left--and now he's got so much to
draw on that he's feeling pretty good."