Bill Guerin and Chris Drury know as well as anyone what it feels like to pull on a Team USA sweater.
They are two of the most decorated American hockey players to lace up their skates in the past two decades. Now, Guerin and Drury are giving back to USA Hockey by helping more players feel the honor of playing for their country.
Guerin, who spent 18 years in the NHL, and Drury, who played 12 years, are serving on the management staff for the U.S. National Team. Both U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame members played integral roles in helping construct this year’s team that is skating in the IIHF Men’s World Championship in Germany and France.
Guerin and Drury bring extensive international careers to the table. Drury was a part of eight major international competitions from 1996-2010, including three Olympics and three worlds teams. Guerin played in seven major international events, most notably three Olympic teams, from 1989-2006.
“Obviously, the playing histories of Chris and Billy speak for themselves,” said Jim Johannson, assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey. “We want our young guys to know them. The great part about this is, pick a guy, Christian Dvorak, I don’t know if he knows Billy Guerin and Chris Drury. You know what, I want him to know them. Not only the legacy they had as players, but more of the identity they have player to player means a lot to our program.”
Johannson reached out to Guerin and Drury to see if they’d be interested in helping out.
“I jumped at the opportunity,” said Guerin, currently assistant general manager for the Pittsburgh Penguins. “To be involved with USA Hockey on this side of things after doing it as a player for so long is a big thrill. Right now it’s been all conference calls and emails and things like that. But to be on the list with the group of general managers that are on this management team, it’s great. It’s a fantastic learning experience. We know everybody, but to get to work with them has been fantastic.”
Drury, the assistant general manager for the New York Rangers, is returning to the same role he served in 2016. He was excited to be brought onto the management team again.
“JJ’s known how much USA Hockey’s meant to me over my career,” Drury said. “Even before I started in player development for the Rangers, we had always kind of talked about it. He knew that I would love to be a part of it with USA Hockey in any way, shape or form.”
Johannson said both former players are a great fit for their roles with USA Hockey.
“They put the jersey on and played the competition, so they know all about that,” Johannson said. “Secondly, they’re just flat out good guys. They want to pass along things that they learned both playing and now on the management side.”
Johannson said Guerin handled getting ahold of New York Islanders to join the team. He nabbed two young forwards in Anders Lee and Brock Nelson. Drury was responsible for bringing aboard 20-year-old Buffalo Sabres phenom Jack Eichel.
“When Chris Drury’s calling Jack Eichel, that’s good for our sport,” Johannson said. “The value in that is just the legacy getting passed along and also the appreciation.”
Drury believes he has a little more sway calling up players and recruiting them because of his Team USA and NHL credentials.
“We know what it’s like to be in their shoes,” Drury said. “You just come off a long season no matter if you’re a college kid, junior kid or NHLer, we understand it’s a long year. We understand either you didn’t make the playoffs or you just lost in the first round and sometimes it can be mentally challenging to say, ‘OK, here we go. Let’s pack my bag and keep going.’ But there are so many pluses from it for individual players. I think if anything, Bill and I can at least give them perspective being where we are and looking back saying, ‘I’m certainly glad I went the times I went. I certainly don’t regret going over there.’”
Guerin and Drury have been juggling their duties with the U.S. Men’s National Team with their day jobs. Both of their NHL teams made it into the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, so it’s been hectic.
But volunteering their time to help USA Hockey with the national team is a labor of love for the pair. It’s also been beneficial for each of them as they continue to gain management experience at the NHL level.
“I think it benefits everybody,” Guerin said. “If it didn’t, you wouldn’t see guys like [Nashville Predators president of hockey operations and general manager] David Poile, [Florida Panthers general manager] Dale Tallon doing it. It benefits you, it helps you grow as a manager, as a person, and it’s fun. You’re around great people, you’re around elite athletes and it’s a great experience. You’re working for your country doing what you love to do.”
Johannson is elated to have Guerin and Drury on board with their management skills and hockey expertise.
“They’ll give the shirt off their back and help any way that they can,” Johannson said. “The bottom line, they want us to have success as a group and these guys are winners. They want to win.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
|May 2||Italy (exh.)||W, 5-2||Agora Arena||Milan, Italy|
|May 5||Germany||L, 1-2||LANXESS Arena||Cologne, Germany|
|May 7||Denmark||W, 7-2||LANXESS Arena||Cologne, Germany|
|May 8||Sweden||W, 4-3||LANXESS Arena||Cologne, Germany|
|May 10||Italy||W, 3-0||LANXESS Arena||Cologne, Germany|
|May 13||Latvia||W, 5-3||LANXESS Arena||Cologne, Germany|
|May 14||Slovakia||W, 6-1||LANXESS Arena||Cologne, Germany|
|May 16||Russia||W, 5-3||LANXESS Arena||Cologne, Germany|
|May 18||Finland (quarterfinal)||L, 0-2||LANXESS Arena||Cologne, Germany|