"I miss this so much," freshman Ted Drury whispered to himself as the Harvard men's hockey team practiced this Wednesday.
While his teammates laughed and chattered down on the ice in relaxed Bill Cleary-style preparation for this weekend's ECAC first-round matchup with Cornell, Drury could only watch from the Bright Center bleachers. He wore sweats, not pads; sneakers, not skates.
The highly touted rookie forward suffered a severe charley horse in the Crimson's February 3 victory over Army. After returning briefly for the Beanpot loss against Boston University, Drury had more bad luck--the muscles in his injured leg calcified, benching him for the remainder of the season.
But as much as Drury misses playing, the Harvard team misses him just as much.
"We miss him, there's no question," Associate Coach Ronn Tomassoni said. "He gives the team another dimension, another weapon in a pretty talented crew of forwards. He's done a lot for us as a freshman."
He certainly has done a lot. Drury tallied nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points in just 17 games for the Crimson this season--the sixth-best total on the team despite all the missed games.
More importantly, by teaming up with junior Ted Donato on the third line, Drury gives the Harvard squad three lines that can consistently score. Without him, Cleary can only consistently rely on the first two lines to produce points.
"He did a great job. He was thrown right into the fire and then some with some of the problems we had early in the season," Donato said. "He played great. I didn't consider him a rookie at all after the first couple of games, and that's as good an honor as I could ever try to bestow upon him."
Donato's honor is not the first that Drury has received in his history as a hockey player. The Greenough resident represented the United States on the 16-, 17- and 18-year-old Select teams in high school, and played with Harvard teammate Chuckie Hughes on the U.S. Junior National team in Helsinki last December.
After a 188-point high school career at Fairfield Prep in Connecticut, the speedy Drury was drafted in the second round by the Calgary Flames. Because he wanted to pursue a degree first, the soon-to-be history concentrator chose to attend college.
"When I graduate, I want to play hockey," Drury said. "I figure I can play somewhere. If it's not in the NHL than maybe in Europe."
After visiting Hockey East power-houses Boston College, Boston University and Maine, the highly touted recruit decided to matriculate at Harvard.
Many factors attracted him to Cambridge. Drury had a lot of fun on his recruiting visit, staying with Hobey Baker winner Lane MacDonald. Harvard was coming off an NCAA championship, and played the finesse-style hockey in which Drury could shine in the open ice.
"He's great with the puck and he's quick," classmate Matt Mallgrave said. "He sees the ice very well and he's got a good shot. He's a pretty complete hockey player. He's your typical Harvard player, with lots of finesse."
While Drury is not a big guy--he is listed at only 185 in the Harvard media guide--he can hit as well as handle the puck. When Donato went down with a broken collarbone earlier this season, Cleary had no qualms about putting the freshman on the penalty-kill unit.
"You see him off the ice, you might think you'd be able to knock him around," said classmate Steve Flomenhoft, who has taken over the role of the Crimson enforcer now that Kevan Melrose has gone, "but he gives a hit just as well as he takes it. He may be labelled a finesse player, but there is a good part of his game that's physical play, and you'll see him knock down bigger guys."
All of his talent could give him a big head, but Drury is all modesty. Instead of a hot-shot freshman, the Trumbull, Conn., native is considered by teammates and coaches alike to be one of the most friendly and industrious players on the team.
"He's gotten a lot of attention because he was such a highly sought after player, and sometimes that can go to people's heads," Tomassoni said. "He's someone that has kept it all in perspective and works as hard as anyone on the team."
While most players of Drury's caliber played on state squads throughout their pre-college years, he always played for the Trumbull team. And when he came to Harvard, it took until the first game for him to feel fully confident.
"The first couple days of practice I was lost," Drury said. "Donato, and Ciavags and C.J.--I worshipped these guys just two years ago, and now I was playing on the line with them. It was scary."
Perhaps Drury's humble attitude is driven by the fact that his accomplishments have been a bit overshadowed by his younger brother's achievements. Twelve-year-old Chris hit the national spotlight last year after pitching the Trumbull Little League team to the world championship.
But the oldest brother does not feel anything but happiness for his little bro. And perhaps hanging around Sports Illustrated's Sportskid of the Year has worn off on him. Best friend Matt Mallgrave claims that in many ways, Drury still retains his youthful aura.
"It's almost like he tries to live the life of a young kid, of a seven-year-old," Mallgrave said. "He likes to have the real simple kind of fun that you forget as you get older--like watching cartoons and laughing at really stupid things."
While Harvard has not been as successful as some of the other schools that recruited Drury, he has no regrets about his decision to wear Crimson.
Except one--seeing Cleary step down as coach to assume the role of athletic director.
"He's the best coach I ever had without a doubt. He knows so much about the game and he makes the game so fun," Drury said. "It's never a drudgery to come down to the rink. It's always fun. That's a big part of the hockey here."
And Drury will return to the rink many times. Though out for the remainder of this season, he will play a key role in years to come for the Harvard team.
"When people look at Ted Drury, they're looking at the future of Harvard hockey," Donato said.