BOSTON, Massachusetts - For members of the U.S. Hockey of Hall of Fame Class of 2015, tonight’s induction ceremony is more than just a celebration of their illustrious careers. It is also a homecoming of sorts for several of the enshrines, and an opportunity to thank those who helped them along the way.
Ron DeGregorio grew up not far from the Marriott Renaissance Boston Waterfront hotel, the site for tonight’s sold out event, developing a passion for the game on the ponds and playgrounds in East Boston. Over the course of his 40 years in hockey at both the local and national level, the former president of USA Hockey has held just about every position in the organization.
“Whatever you do in life, you don’t do it because you expect something like this. You do it because you want to do it and you have a passion for it,” said DeGregorio, who spent more than 40 years working at various levels of youth hockey starting at the local level before holding a number of key positions within USA Hockey.
“This is just icing on the cake. Having it here in the Boston area is special. All of my family can be here easily; this is really a family affair. There are more things to come, hopefully, in my life but this is one of those benchmarks that is nice to arrive at.”
Joining DeGregorio in the Class of 2015 is fellow New England native Chris Drury, along with Angela Ruggiero and Mathieu Schneider.
Also honored at the event will be longtime NHL scout Bob Crocker and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, who are recipients of the NHL’s Lester Patrick Award for a lifetime of service to hockey in the United States.
Legendary coach and general manager Emile Francis will receive the Wayne Gretzky International Award, which is given to an international individual who has made major contributions to the growth and advancement of hockey in the United States.
For both Drury and Ruggiero, the event marks a homecoming of sorts as both had stellar college careers in addition to starring on the international and professional stages.
Drury, who grew up in Trumbull, Conn., launched his Hall of Fame hockey career at Boston University, where he won the 1998 Hobey Baker Award and led the Terriers to the 1995 NCAA title.
“When you look at all the players who are in the Hall that I looked up to and tried to emulate, players like [Bill] Guerin, [Keith] Tkachuk, [Brian] Leetch and [Tony] Amonte, and now to be in the Hall with them, I’m certainly grateful,” said Drury, who also won two Olympic silver medals with Team USA (2002, 2010).
Ruggiero was a four-year star at Harvard University, where she led the Crimson to the 1999 NCAA title and was the recipient of the 2004 Patty Kazmaier Award as the top player in women’s college hockey.
“It’s amazing that it’s in the city that is a second home to me. I grew up in [Simi Valley] California but I played college hockey here and trained for the 1998 Olympics here, so it feels natural to have [this event] here,” said Ruggiero, who played more games (256) in a Team USA uniform than any other player, male or female, in the country’s history.
And Schneider, who works for the NHL Players’ Association, got his start in the game just down the road at the prep powerhouse Mount Saint Charles Academy in Woonsocket, R.I. Over the course of his 21-year NHL career with 10 different teams, the New York City native played hundreds of games in the Boston Garden as a visiting player.
Like DeGregorio, the induction ceremony is an opportunity for Ruggiero to thank so many of the players and coaches whom she played with over the course of her long career.
“Unfortunately we just couldn’t get enough tickets to invite all of my coaches and teammates but obviously they’re an important part of me receiving this honor,” said Ruggierio, who joins former teammate Cammi Granato as the only two women to be inducted in both the Hockey Hall of Fame and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
“The hockey community is like my second family.”