When he first entered Walter Brown Arena in the Fall of 2003, Boston University goaltender John Curry was a virtual unknown – a recruited walk-on who was resigned to playing Division-III hockey just a few months earlier.
Fast-forwarding to the present day, even Curry found it hard to believe that just 11 years after his arrival in Boston, he would be receiving an honorary red jacket from legendary head coach Jack Parker, as the netminder was elected to the Boston University Athletic Hall of Fame Saturday night.
“When I first found out, I was surprised,” Curry said. “It was nothing I ever expected. I really appreciate it, because I’ve actually gotten a chance to reflect heading up to this event and really think about my time here and all the people that helped me here. It’s just been a fun night and it just means more than I can describe.
Curry, the seventh goalie to be named to the prestigious club, was elected in his first year of eligibility. While Curry left Commonwealth Avenue with the program’s all-time record in both goals-against average (2.07) and save percentage (.923), his road to BU hockey stardom was paved with both frustration and disappointment.
Growing up in the small town of Shorewood, Minn., Curry got his first taste of discouragement when his favorite team, the Minnesota North Stars, moved down to Dallas when he was just nine years old.
The young goaltender would soon turn his attention to the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, where his dream of playing Division-I hockey was born.
After an impressive high-school career at the Breck School in Golden Valley, Minn., led to no real opportunities with D-I programs, Curry attended the Taft School in Watertown, Conn., for one season, compiling a 1.46 GAA and a .920 save percentage.
In the waning days of Taft’s season, Curry accepted the harsh reality that his goal of playing for a D-I hockey team was likely dead, and planned on signing with a D-III school in the coming weeks.
However, Curry’s luck would quickly turn around, as BU’s then-associate head coach Brian Durocher scouted the goaltender and offered him a spot on the team as a walk-on.
“I’m sure I would’ve had a great time [playing D-III hockey,], but what I wanted was to play Division-I hockey, so to get that call from [Durocher] and to get the opportunity was one of the best moments of my life,” Curry said. “For things to go the way they did, and to have the teams we did, it was just a bonus. It was an amazing ride.”
Serving as the third-string goalie during the 2003-04 season, Curry only saw five minutes of ice time during his freshman campaign. With the departure of Sean Fields at the end of the season, the starting goaltender job was up for grabs.
Curry noted that while he obviously had his mind set on seizing the heralded position, his preparation did not change going into the new year.
“Everything was still new for me. It was my second year, but you just take it day by day,” Curry said. “For me, I was just going in with the same mentality of just trying to be good in practice and be ready. I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity early in the year and the team played well in front of me and it went well for a while, which allowed me to gain some confidence and establish myself.
“A lot of stars had to align. I definitely worked hard for it but I had so much help along the way too.”
After getting a start early in the season, Curry would never relinquish his spot, protecting the crease for the next three seasons. By the time he played his final game for the Terriers, Curry had led his team to three Beanpot titles, the 2006 Hockey East Championship and was a top-10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award during his senior year in 2007.
Despite forging an incredible legacy at BU, Curry was not drafted by an NHL team – instead signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a free agent on July 1, 2007.
Assuming the role of undrafted free agent would aid Curry in his career, giving him a chip on his shoulder that he first gained while struggling to impress D-I schools during his high-school years.
“It’s helped me. I’ve found a little bit of an identity that way by just trying to prove myself,” Curry said. “I don’t feel like I’m cheated. It’s just one of those things where everyone’s competitive, they want to be recognized, they want to get those opportunities, and for me, it’s just easier to use that type of attitude to be aggressive.”
After four years with the Penguins organization, Curry played one season in Germany with the Hamburg Freezers of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga before returning to the United States to play for the Iowa Wild, the AHL affiliate of his hometown Minnesota Wild.
The BU Athletic Hall of Fame boasts an impressive class of former Terriers – including players and coaches such as Mike Eruzione, Jim Craig, Chris Drury and Jack Parker.
Joining them now is a former walk-on in Curry, who, after fighting for a chance his whole life, became a legend on the ice for the scarlet and white.
“For me to be named to the BU Athletics Hall of Fame, believe me when I say that I could have never imagined this in my wildest dreams,” Curry said. “It’s the single greatest honor that I’ve ever received.”