Last night, former Black Hawks forward Jack Drury scored his first goal as a professional hockey player during the Vaxjo Lakers’ 3-2 overtime win versus Orebro in the Swedish Hockey League. The first period power play goal tied the game, 1-1. Drury also skated a season-high 20:51 during the matchup.
His goal came in his 13th appearance for the Lakers. The SHL rookie had already had a few flashy moments, producing three assists in an October 17th matchup, then two more on Halloween during his most recent game prior to last night. All totaled, the 20-year-old has eight points during the still relatively-young season.
Recently, Drury shared some observations about playing overseas and how the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged him to reimagine the early stages of his pro career, which he hopes will eventually lead to opportunities with the Carolina Hurricanes, who drafted him in 2018.
Black Hawks: How has playing professional hockey in Sweden compared with your other hockey experiences? Has it been a bigger challenge adjusting to pro hockey or adjusting to the cultural differences of living in a new country?
Jack Drury: I have found playing professional hockey in Sweden mirrors the United States Hockey League in many ways. The travel is mostly done by bus trip, with the occasional flight, and two- to three-game weeks are featured throughout the seven-month season. The college season features about half as many games, but the USHL and Swedish Hockey League (SHL) feature a similar number of games. I think the bigger challenge has been adjusting to the cultural differences of living in a new country. I have always felt quite comfortable at the rink, and feel I can understand hockey no matter where it is being played, but the same cannot be said for many of the customs here!
BH: What should fans know about high-level hockey in Sweden if they are not familiar? What have you learned about the Vaxjo club during the few months you have been there?
JD: I think an important thing to recognize is the intense passion of the fans here (much like the Black Hawks). Although COVID-19 has influenced the amount of fans we can have at the games, whenever you see a fan in town, they are always excited to speak with you and ask you many questions about the team. The Lakers won the championship for the SHL in 2015 and 2018. Vancouver Canucks star (alongside former Hawk Brock Boeser) Elias Pettersson spent the 2018 season here and left a deep impact on the team. Vaxjo's rival is HV71, a team about 90 minutes north of our location, near the proximity that is featured in the Waterloo-Cedar Rapids rivalry.
BH: There have long been comparisons of the difference in the way the game is played in Europe and North America. Based on your firsthand experience, do you find those differences to be significant?
JD: I think there are certainly some major differences. First off, all teams play on an ice sheet the same size of Young Arena (Olympic size). This is in comparison to the narrower sheet prominently featured in North American rinks. The style of play is also quite different, as puck possession is regarded much more important here than most clubs in North America.
BH: Could you talk about the communication you have had with the Hurricanes…how are they interacting with you? What guidance are they providing throughout this experience?
JD: I talk with their development coach, Sergei Samsonov, monthly, and he helps me fine-tune certain areas of my game. The organization has been helpful allowing me to carve out my own path and supporting my decisions.
BH: How did you go through the process of weighing whether to leave Harvard this offseason and go to Sweden?
JD: The impacts of COVID-19 are why I decided to go to Sweden. My college season had been delayed until January and it was uncertain if it would happen at all. Making the decision to come here was incredibly difficult, primarily because of how much I enjoyed my time at school. I had made some of my best friends there and felt we had more to accomplish, but ultimately, the extenuating circumstances left me no choice. It is a similar pain I felt leaving Waterloo, as you grow to love those communities you represent and feel they are a second home.
Jack Drury skated for the Black Hawks for two seasons: 2016/17 and 2017/18. He led the Hawks with 65 points (24 goals, 41 assists) in 56 games during his second year and helped the club win the Anderson Cup.
Where Are They Now features are presented by Karen's Print Rite, 2515 Falls Avenue in Waterloo. Photo provided by the Carolina Hurricanes.