Philadelphia, PA – Just one day before his 35th birthday Chris Drury announced he was calling it quits.
At first glance it seems like an early end to a solid career that featured nine 20-goal seasons, but it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that saw him play in New York over the past few seasons.
The centerman, who at one time was able to captivate hockey fans with his flair for the dramatic, had been worn down by injuries and an inability to live up to inflated expectations.
The former New York Rangers captain saw his stock plummet during his years in the Big Apple, but even those down times couldn't completely erase the legacy Drury built as a clutch performer.
After all, legendary Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic once said of Drury: "You want a goal, you're in overtime -- you want him." Drury earned that praise, impressing the revered Sakic, and legions of NHL fans, with his penchant for scoring important goals.
In fact, Drury scored 11 game-winning goals over four playoff seasons with the Avalanche and he tallied 11 total goals while helping Colorado to a Stanley Cup title in 2001.
Just like his baseball career reached its apex in 1989 when he helped his hometown team from Trumbull, Connecticut win a Little League World Series, Drury claimed his one and only Stanley Cup title at the tender age of 25 and was never able to reach those heights again.
After Drury lifted Lord Stanley's Cup, a pair of Olympic Silver medals won with Team USA in 2002 and 2010 are the only major achievements worth mentioning.
The only player to ever win both the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the top NCAA player and the NHL's Calder Memorial Trophy, Drury was unable to sustain his early success deep into his 30s. The expectations grew as he moved to other NHL clubs like the Calgary Flames, Buffalo Sabres, and eventually the Rangers.
However, by the time he hit Broadway, Drury could no longer keep up the pace.
After posting the only two 30-goal seasons of his NHL career in consecutive years with the Sabres, Drury signed the contract that would come to define the latter part of his career.
That deal, announced on July 1, 2007, was for five years and $35.25 million. The bloated contract would become an albatross for the Rangers as well as for Drury's legacy.
Drury's first year with the Rangers in 2007-08 was a pretty big disappointment, as he posted just 25 goals -- 12 less than he'd scored a year before in Buffalo. Things went quickly downhill from there with Drury notching 22 goals in 2008-09 and adding just 14 more in 77 games in 2009-10.
Rock-bottom came last season as Drury battled injuries for most of the year and wound up recording just one goal in 24 games. The Rangers had seen enough and bought out the final year of Drury's contract for $3.333 million in late June.
After being freed from his contract in New York, it seemed possible that Drury would find a new team through free agency, but nothing materialized. It's been rumored that Drury is dogged by chronic knee problems and those ailments could be the reason he is leaving the sport so soon.
Drury was always easy to root for (especially for American hockey fans who easily identified with the star thanks to his Little League championship past) so it's kind of sad to seem him go out on such a down note.
At least Drury has a long retirement -- and his 35th birthday cake -- to keep him occupied.