📝 by Lindsey Willhite | AHL On The Beat
In July 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing chaos and uncertainty across North America’s sports landscape, the Ivy League canceled all games and practices through Dec. 31 at a minimum.
For Jack Drury, that presented a big dilemma.
On one hand, as a junior-to-be at Harvard University, he needed to stay in school and keep working toward his degree in psychology. Who gives away a year of an Ivy League education?
On the other hand, as the Carolina Hurricanes’ second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, he needed to keep progressing on the ice. If Harvard wasn’t going to play any of its 2020-21 season (as turned out to be the case), then how would he stay on track toward his projected future in the NHL?
When it came time to make the decision, he landed on a typical Jack Drury solution: Instead of settling for A or B, he opted for A and B.
Drury signed a one-year deal to play center for the Vaxjo Lakers in the Swedish Hockey League.
“I was fortunate to find that connection in Sweden,” Drury said. “It couldn’t have worked out better. I got to go to a great organization, a great city and I had a lot of fun there.”
And, thanks to Sweden’s time zone being six hours ahead of Boston’s, he figured out a way to be a full-time professional athlete and a full-time student. He practiced and ate lunch at the rink from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., then returned to his all-expenses-paid apartment and logged onto Zoom to take live classes with other Harvard students from 3 to 7 or 8 p.m. Then he’d cook himself dinner, study and do it all again the next day.
As an example of how much Drury looks ahead to hunt down the smallest details, he noticed the Lakers played most of their midweek games on Thursday nights. So he scheduled a Thursday class that started at midnight Vaxjo time.
“I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep after a game, so I’d have the class after,” Drury said. “Which was not bad.”
Those late-night marathons proved to be invaluable experience in May when Vaxjo qualified for the SHL finals ― at the same time Harvard scheduled its final exams. On the night of May 6, Drury and the Lakers played Game 3 of their best-of-7 finals against Rogle BK. Then he went back to his apartment and took his Human Trafficking final exam from midnight to 3 a.m.
Again, in typical Jack Drury style, he made the best of everything despite his hectic schedule. Vaxjo captured the SHL championship in five games as Drury, despite being the second-youngest player on the roster, ranked second in the league in postseason scoring with five goals and six assists in 14 games. And that Human Trafficking final? He aced it with a score of 93.
MEET THE DRURY FAMILY
By now, you might have (correctly) figured out Drury, a Winnetka, Ill., native and now a rookie with the Chicago Wolves, enjoys achieving and winning as much as humanly possible.
But where does this drive come from? While it’s neither fair nor correct to suggest he’s a triumph of DNA, we’re going to provide a quick review of the Drury family tree if only so you become familiar with Jack’s roots.
His mom, Liz (née Berkery), earned All-America honors three years out of four while playing lacrosse at Harvard. In her freshman season, she helped lead the Crimson to the national championship. In her senior season, she was named the national player of the year (the only one in Harvard history) as well as the school’s Senior Female Athlete of the Year. She also was a brilliant enough all-around athlete that she lettered on the basketball team as a freshman ― and in high school she was a state finalist as a swimmer.
His dad, Ted, started at Harvard the same year as Liz (1989) and promptly made a difference on the hockey team as he won the Ivy League Rookie of the Year award. He spent a season away from school in order to play for the 1992 United States Olympic team, then returned to Harvard and claimed the Ivy League Player of the Year honor while also being recognized as a finalist for the 1993 Hobey Baker Award that goes to the nation’s best collegian. Then he represented the United States again in the 1994 Olympics before moving directly into his eight-year NHL career.
(Longtime Wolves fans remember Ted helping Chicago reach the 2001 Turner Cup Finals as he stacked up 21 goals and 21 assists in 68 regular-season games and five goals in 14 postseason contests. When Jack made his Wolves debut Oct. 16, they became the second father-and-son combo in franchise history — joining Chris and Jake Chelios.)
Ted’s younger brother, Chris, played even longer in the NHL as he racked up 255 goals over 12 seasons ― six of them as team captain. Chris played on three Olympic teams and is in his first year as the New York Rangers’ general manager and president of hockey operations.
One more impressive note: Liz and Ted Drury were inducted into Harvard’s Athletic Hall of Fame together in 2008 — their first year of eligibility.
“Many will say she’s the better athlete,” Ted said.
So, yes, there’s some precedence for athletic and academic excellence in the Drury family, which also features Lilly (19), Owen (16), Teddy (14) and Ryan (10). Lilly is a freshman on Boston University’s lacrosse team while all three of Jack’s brothers play AAA hockey for the nascent Chicago Reapers organization based in Mount Prospect, Ill.
But life is what you make it — and Jack always has set his own expectations and standards rather than having them imposed on him.
“He has always been pretty mature and willing to take a leadership role,” Liz said. “We have joked around that Jack would basically parent himself. When he was younger, he’d come up to us and say, ‘You know what? I need to go to bed earlier. I’ve been staying up too late.’ I used to call him the self-cleaning oven. It wasn’t parenting — he was a self-cleaning oven.”
“When Jack was 6 or 7, I remember saying to Liz, ‘I think Jack thinks of us less like parents and more like peers,’” Ted said. “He talked to us like we were all on the same level.”
“His nickname was ‘Father’ for a while in our family,” Liz said. “We had Mom and Dad and ‘Father’ and we joked around that he was part of the parenting team. For any decision, he’d say, ‘Let’s pull in the parenting team.’”
And while he loved playing baseball at Loyola Academy (he was a speedy left-handed center fielder) and was encouraged by his parents to investigate other prestigious universities, no one in the family was stunned when Jack committed to play hockey at Harvard before his junior year of high school.
“It was definitely valuable to see some other places,” Jack said. “College hockey is such an incredible experience, you’ve got to make sure you go the right path. But I always kind of knew Harvard was where I wanted to go. With my parents going there, we visited a lot when I was a kid. It’s just an awesome place with really good people. Just great guys on the team and great people on the campus.”
This season would have been his senior year at Harvard, but instead Drury has been busy serving as the Wolves’ second-line center and a member of the top power-play unit — he owns nine goals and 12 assists in 34 games. He also made his NHL debut on Dec. 16 and scored his first goal in Carolina’s win. He repeated the feat on Dec. 18 in his second game, but has not played for the Hurricanes since.
As for his education, Drury needs just four more classes to complete his degree requirements. He plans to take two courses each of the next two summers to wrap it up.
“FATHER” COMES HOME
In yet another trademark Jack Drury move, he was eager to move back into his boyhood bedroom when he joined the Wolves. But he did so on one condition: That he be allowed to pay rent.
“He offered and I said, ‘You know, this is supposed to happen when you have no job and you’ve been living at home for three years and eating all of our food. You’re taking all of the fun out of it,’” Ted said. “But he insisted. He did the math and came up with what he said was the right number.”
Otherwise, most things are the same as when Jack moved to Waterloo, Iowa, in 2016 at the age of 16 to start climbing the junior hockey ladder and prepare for Harvard.
“Honestly, the biggest issue was amping up the food production,” Liz said with a laugh. “And for Jack, it was everyone being a little bit older. His youngest brother was 6 the last time Jack was living at home. Now he’s 10. And now his oldest brother is taller than him.”
Instead of just three Drury boys acting like little kids while playing knee hockey in the house and football in the yard and punching each other everywhere, now there are four again.
“It’s pretty funny being at home right now and messing around with all my brothers,” Jack said. “It’s definitely good to be around those guys. We’ve enjoyed being physical with each other. Or we’re yelling about football rankings and why Notre Dame’s ranked too low.”
“My youngest brother, for some reason, loves Notre Dame. So to give it to him, me and my older brothers always say why Notre Dame is ranked too high and their quarterback isn’t too good — and he gets really upset about it. It’s kind of funny.”
Alas, this type of fun won’t get to last forever. At some point in the not-too-distant future, Jack will move out of the family home and on the NHL. So the Drurys are all enjoying the “madhouse,” as Liz calls it.
“Instead of the house feeling more crowded with Jack coming back in,” she said, “it feels like there’s more energy and more fun.”
“He’s a really thoughtful kid,” Ted said. “He’s aware of the people around him. He’s really funny. He likes to laugh. It’s great to see him with his brothers. It’s nice to get to see him a lot.”