I had a lot of fun doing the Fifteen series with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. Normally, the talks that the two of us have are entirely game related. Having a casual chat and letting him tell old playing stories was great. It’s with joy that I can say you’re all in-store for more of that thanks to a reader suggestion to hear Fifteen from assistant coach Stan Drulia, as well.
For those unfamiliar with Drulia he came into coaching after a twelve-year professional playing career. He played 126 games at the NHL level, all of which came as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and scored 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists). The majority of his playing career came in the ye olde International Hockey League (IHL) – where the Admirals played from 1977-00. In total, Drulia logged 797 career games of professional hockey before transitioning into coaching duties with the Orlando Seals of the Atlantic Coast Hockey League (ACHL) in 2002-03. It wasn’t until midway through the 2011-12 season when he was appointed assistant coach of the Admirals -but- he has been part of the organization ever since.
Admirals Roundtable: I’m going to have to change up the tenses here from the players to- (Stan Drulia: Way back when?) Yeah. [laughs] Back in the day. -BUT- what were your inspirations to play hockey?
Drulia: My inspirations to play? Oh, wow. I don’t know. I mean.. when you’re young, back in Canada, you’re growing up – you get thrown out on the ice – you start playing and you start watching. All of the sudden when you’re getting older, thirteen – fourteen, you’re hearing that you have a chance possibly play and you’re one of the better kids growing up where you’re from. All these guys, all our players, have been the best kids where they were growing up. So, I don’t know. It’s just a passion. It’s a love of the game that as a young guy growing up it’s all I wanted to do was play hockey. And I did it every day after school.. in the backyard.. in the basement.. where-ever I could play I would play.
AR: When did you realize that you were going to be doing this for a career?
Drulia: [exhales] I don’t know. I knew I wanted to do it as a career probably when I was seventeen – eighteen. I struggled to find a job to play when I was younger. Turning pro was tough for me to find a spot to legitimately become a regular in the American Hockey League. Obviously, the aspiration is to play in the NHL. I got a hundred games in there – which I’m real proud of to be able to play there. But I think as a seven, eight, nine-years pro – I knew I wanted to coach. That’s what I’m obviously doing it now. I don’t know how many years I’ve been doing it. It’s about fourteen or fifteen. It just seems to all run into one-another. Now, this is my life. I love the teaching aspect of it. I love being able to be a part of letting a guy know he’s going to the [NHL]. I think that’s an exciting and thrilling part for us.
AR: Who was the first famous player that you met along the way?
Drulia: I don’t know. Probably- I grew up a Buffalo Sabres fan growing up in Fort Erie [Canada]. As a young guy probably going to the Buffalo Sabres hockey schools, Jerry Korab, Gilbert Perreault, Danny Gare, and those types of players. Rick Martin. The ol’ French Connection Line was my line with the Buffalo Sabres growing up so I was a die-hard Buffalo Sabres fan when I was a young guy.
AR: What is your greatest hockey moment and, for you, this could either go player or coach?
Drulia: Well, it’s obviously playing your first NHL game – scoring your first NHL goal. To win two championships as a player, even in the IHL, winning is everything. When you win and you’re a part of that winning culture it’s fantastic. I was able to win once as a coach in Orlando in my first year coaching. And like you said, as a coach now, it’s that feel good of knowing that you’re helping put guys in the [NHL].
AR: What is the most memorable goal that you’ve scored?
Drulia: My first goal, probably. I scored against Ron Hextall when I was in Tampa Bay and he was with the Québec Nordiques. I had just gotten benched for the whole period and I got a late shift. I was able to score and it ended up being the game-winner that night. So, it was real special. (AR: Now, is this one of those things like Viktor Arvidsson‘s first NHL goal in a couple years time he’s going to be saying it was the greatest wrist shot or slap shot in history but it just bumped off of him.) No, no! I actually walked into it. I got a great pass. Walked right down and saw it. It was a slap shot.. and I actually fanned on it, it kind of went end over end, and did hit the crossbar and go down. But I fanned on the shot for sure.
AR: What is the strangest game that you’ve played or coaches in? Specifically in the last few years there’s been a lot of strange Admirals games that you’ve been around in.
Drulia: Oh boy. Probably the Rockford game back here my first year when Ian Herbers was the coach. The brawl. [Editor’s Note: Oh, yeah… that one.] That brawl was crazy. We’ve built a tremendous rivalry with Rockford. Both teams compete. We see each other so often. That was really strange for me. The way that it happened.. as we weren’t playing great at the time.. and I think that brawl actually catapulted us to go on to the finish that we had to make the playoffs. (AR: Take me into the psychology of that moment. Because that’s one of those legendary moments of this team’s history now. Was that something that had been building or was that one incident with Rob Flick going after Jeremy Smith?) No, I think it was an incident provoked by Flick. Jeremy was fortunate enough to be looking at the glass and see him coming from behind. But I was impressed with how fast our guys got off the bench. [laughs] (AR: I was impressed by how fast Jeremy Smith got going.) Everybody! I mean -actually- the guys actually built a pretty good wall and Rockford couldn’t get to him. It’s one of those things that I was involved in a few as a player in junior. You don’t see it anymore. You rarely see it. I was involved in two or three in junior as a player and they’re scary. (AR: Even something like a line brawl – you don’t see them that much.) No, and thankfully. Rightfully so – with all the injuries and how big and strong these guys are right now there’d be some serious injuries. That brawl really -it did- catapult us on to being the team that we were. (AR: The lasting image I have of that -it looked like it was straight out of Slap Shot- was Michael Latta.. I think he came out of the penalty box.. he’s got no clothes on.) Latta did come out of the penalty box. Yeah. Well that was Latta. Latta was an interesting man. Loved him. He was going to stick up for anybody. He wasn’t going to let anybody get the better of one of his teammates.
AR: What is your most embarrassing hockey memory?
Drulia: Well, we had a lot of shootouts back in the day. And probably having a shootout and losing the puck into the corner and never even getting a shot on goal
AR: What is your most painful hockey career? And I was lucky enough once to hear you telling Kevin Fiala a lot of your’s when he got that skate to the face last season. You told him it’s going to be the first of many.
Drulia: Well, poor Kevin. I mean, you’re going to have injuries. I took a shot in the eye – took a puck in the eye – almost lost my eyesight in training camp one year after we won the championship in ’97 in Detroit with the Vipers. Probably the scariest moment for me. Jumping in a taxi cab, going over to the emergency room, and then the doctor’s telling you you’re probably going to lose your eye. That was probably the scariest moment. Not as painful as you may think but scary in itself.
AR: What are your favorite hockey uniforms?
Drulia: I tell you what. I really like our’s! I think our jerseys, what [Harris Turer] and [Jon Greenberg] and the staff did here with our jerseys, are fantastic. I like the Minnesota Wild, too. I like that dark green. I think that’s a pretty neat jersey. (AR: I’d have to imagine, also, you’d go for those classic Sabres ones?) Well the new ones – I don’t like the new ones. You got to go right back to the old ones, you know the die-hard, buffalo on ’em with the blue and gold. Those for sure.
AR: Who are the funniest players you’ve encountered, as a player or as a coach?
Drulia: One of the funniest guys I ever played with was Marc Bergevin. I played with him in Tampa now he’s the GM in Montreal. Berg could be one of the funniest men alive. You can tell in the way he conducts himself as a GM. He’s as classy as they come but man did he keep you loose around the rink
AR: What’s been your favorite aspect of Milwaukee?
Drulia: I don’t know. It’s a real sleeper city. People don’t know how good of a city Milwaukee is. There is so much to do. Our fan support has been fantastic. You go around the community you hear about the Admirals and things like that. I just think it’s a real small town but a big city feel. And I’ve really enjoyed the people here.
AR: What is your favorite food?
Drulia: Oh, steak for sure. Nothing wrong with a good filet mignon. (AR: How do you take it?) Medium. (AR: Just medium?) Yep. (AR: I’ve had a lot of medium-rare with that one.) No, just medium – medium with lots of spices.
AR: What is your favorite non-hockey hobby?
Drulia: Non-hockey hobby? Oof, that’s all I do. I don’t do a whole lot. I’ve got two dogs. I spend a lot of time walking the dogs. (AR: What types of dogs?) I have a Jack Russell Terrier. She is thirteen I think. And then we have a new one.. we’re not sure what she is. We think she’s a Rat Terrier. We took her up at a rescue last year at Christmas.
AR: What is your favorite non-hockey memory?
Drulia: Favorite non-hockey memory. [pause] Wow. [pauses – looks to Milwaukee Admirals VP/Communications Charlie Larson for guidance] Charlie, you got to give me better insight on this one. (Charlie: Which one of your kids do you like more?) Yeah exactly! The first thing I thought of was the birth of your kids but.. obviously it’s the birth of your kids. Now that my kids are older it’s nice when we can all get together because we’re not around. We don’t get together very often with both of them in college and that. So, I think when we’re all together it’s probably a good special time for all of us.
AR: This is usually the one I kind of use to stump the players – which is, what are your plans after hockey? I think you’ve taken care of that. So.. (Drulia: I’m going to retire!) What are your plans after coaching then?
Drulia: Well, my wife and I just bought four acres of land in New York state on Lake Erie a couple of years ago. We’ve been taking the last couple years to clear – knock some brush down. We’ve been working on our house plans. Hopefully get a shovel in the ground this summer to build our home that we want to live in for as long as I guess we’re together. But, that’s it. I’m just looking forward to being around this game as long as I can. Hopefully coaching and moving up the ladder as well like the players want to do. And, after that, going to have a nice glass of wine.. sitting on the beach.
Thanks much to Stan Drulia for taking the time to do this interview. You can always hear him post-game on the radio on 105.7FM The FAN with Milwaukee Admirals broadcaster Aaron Sims. Here at Admirals Roundtable – Five Days of Fifteen rolls on tomorrow with the seemingly always laughing Joe Pendenza. As for the coming weeks – who do you want to have featured in Fifteen next? Please comment down below with your suggestions!