PHOENIX — Gary Drummond answers the door to his condominium in casual dress and bare feet, offering the perfect metaphor for the Coyotes co-owner who was recently thrust into the spotlight when he assumed the title of president of hockey operations.
After 43 years as a successful corporate attorney and businessman in the gas and oil industries, Drummond is disarmingly comfortable in his skin, refreshingly free of pretense, and remarkably humble, given his accomplishments — yet he rarely opens the door for outsiders to glimpse that man.
“I’ve never really sought profile or recognition,” Drummond, 65, says. “People tell me my ego is a fair size so it’s not that I lack the ego. It’s just that I get satisfied with success in terms of friendships that last and success in terms of the financial side.”
Few Coyotes fans know much about the IceArizona partner, but for about the past year, he has been overseeing the hockey operations side of the business and has earned the trust and respect of key members of the organization including his fellow owners, captain Shane Doan and coach Dave Tippett.
“He’s a quiet, methodical and honest man,” Tippett says. “He takes a lot of things in and listens a lot, but when he makes a suggestion it’s well thought out and his big thing is making sure it gets executed.”
It’s no coincidence that Tippett and Drummond have developed a bond. They both grew up in southern Saskatchewan — Tippett in Moosomin, Drummond on a grain farm four miles outside Penzance. Both spent their late-childhood to early-teen years in Regina, a decade apart, but in the same neighborhood.
“We both trundled to the old Exhibition Stadium, on Saturday mornings we played in the (Regina) Pats community league, we rode our bikes to the same Little League park, we went to the same schools and we both fished golf balls out of Wascana Creek,” Drummond says. “We are very much a product of the same environment. We have a lot of the same values and same vision for what it takes to be successful in life and business and hockey.”
Like many Canadian boys, Drummond grew up following and playing hockey. His boyhood idol was Saskatchewan product Gordie Howe. On Friday nights, he would listen to the radio broadcast of Regina Pats (junior hockey) games at his grandparents’ home. On weekends, he would watch or listen to the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens on Hockey Night in Canada, in the days when the NHL was still a six-team league.
Drummond had tryouts with the Pats for three successive years, and he played for their tier II club, but after graduating from the University of Saskatchewan Law School in 1973 with a Bachelor’s degree in Law and Economics, he spent 18 years as a corporate attorney building the relationships that would help him in the business world.
“His parents were very hard working people and I think great role models for Gary and his sisters,” says longtime friend Larry Wright, who met Drummond when both were trying out for Little League and would later become the Philadelphia Flyers first-round pick in 1971. “They came from a farming background but they branched out into other things, and I think they gave Gary that zest for entrepreneurship.”
Drummond has been an investor and board member on several private and public companies including Baytex Energy Corporation, Crew Energy Incorporated, Comaplex Minerals Corporation, and currently Bonterra Energy Corporation and Pincliff Energy Limited. He was co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Direct Energy Management Limited and Universal Energy Group, both of which are publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Drummond described his newest role with the Coyotes as a “conduit between ownership, management, coaches and even core players.
“I never expect or want to get into assessing players or anything of that nature,” he says. “But in terms of building a plan or a vision, I think I can be of assistance and also in keeping our focus on an alignment between all aspects of the organization.”
“My business partner (Mark Silver) and I tried to construct a business in terms of not having any excuses for the senior people. You create an atmosphere where key people and the people working for them have a good chance to be successful. That is exactly what our vision is for the hockey team.”
Drummond knew of co-owners Dave Duckett and George Gosbee before he joined IceArizona, but he said those were only casual acquaintances. He joined the group “on three or four days notice” after another investor pulled out.
“Once we closed and started getting to know each other, one thing became consistent: when Gary spoke, everybody listened,” Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said. “He listens more than anybody else I know. I’ve been in meetings where he doesn’t say anything for 45 minutes, but he’s there, building on opinions, and when he does say something, it is very thoughtful, examining all angles.”
Drummond understands that outsiders have questions about the direction and philosophy of the organization after four years without a postseason berth. He knows outsiders also have questions about the current management structure, but he believes the Coyotes are better positioned than at any point since IceArizona took over.
“Moving into this role was certainly something I didn’t plan on but I welcome the challenge,” Drummond says. “We’re on a good path now but we have to be smart and work hard. We have to make mostly the right decisions and we have to be successful or else the next bunch of changes will come. That’s just the nature of the beast and that doesn’t bother me at all. I’m comfortable with the leadership group we have in place.
“Nobody is thinking negative or looking for budget excuses anymore. If we work hard and work smart, we’ve got a tremendous opportunity here.”