One of the legendary careers in American hockey ended in a 55-word email released by the National Hockey League Players Association.
At first glance, it hardly seems fitting that a celebratory press conference, complete with a highlight reel and flowery words from rivals, teammates, coaches and executives, never occurred.
But in the case of Chris Drury, bidding adieu to the game in a quiet manner is befitting his personality.
The NHLPA announced Drury’s retirement Friday morning. The center leaves the game having played 892 regular season games with Colorado, Calgary, Buffalo and the New York Rangers. He amassed 255 goals and 360 assists for 615 points and was minus-6. Drury played in 139 playoff games and totaled 47 goals, 42 assists, 89 points and was plus-24. He won a Cup with the 2001 Avalanche and was named the 1998-99 Calder Trophy winner.
“It was a surprise to me,” Ryan Callahan told Metro by phone Friday afternoon.
Long recognized as one of American sports’ greatest big game athletes, Drury totaled eight goals, 11 assists and 19 points in 52 games as a member of Team USA in international competition (World Junior Championships, World Championships, World Cup and the Olympics, where he earned two silver medals and a bronze), along with being a key component to the 1989 Little League World Series Champions from Trumbull, Conn.
“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,” Rangers GM Glen Sather said in a statement. “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.”
The Rangers signed Drury to a five-year, $35.250 million free-agent deal following the 2007 season with the belief that he and fellow signee Scott Gomez would seamlessly fit into a team that already had Jaromir Jagr.
Drury scored 62 goals and 151 points in 264 games with the Rangers. However, his on-ice production paled in comparison to his intangible qualities, including teaching the organization’s young players how to be NHL players.
Callahan said Drury was someone he “looked up to, tried to emulate. [He was a] pro on and off the ice. I don’t think I’d be here without Dru. Definitely, being an assistant captain to Dru helped me to be a leader.”
Both the Rangers and Drury seemed to prepare for a separation as player's moved into the offseason.
Drury had only played in 24 games last season due to a lingering knee injury, and the organization had embarked on a youth movement. While praising their relationship, John Tortorella noted that Drury “tried like hell but he slowed down as [the first-round playoff series against the Capitals] went on.” Tortorella added that the organization would be “going young. We’re trying to build it up again.”
Drury told reporters when asked about his future that he “just kind of take it one day at a time. I just kind of always prepare for the next practice and the next game.”
The Rangers bought out the last year of Drury’s contract on June 29. Fifty-one days later, he said goodbye.
Follow Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.