Headed to next edition of Beanpot, No. 16 Harvard knows Jack(s)

Jack Badini, Jack Donato, Jack Drury and Jack Rathbone all play for Harvard this season (photos: Harvard Athletics).

“The Incredibles” featured their super-powered son, Jack-Jack, in both of their animated feature films where they saved the world.

Harvard itself boasts Jack and Jack this season — along with Jack. That’s sophomores Jack Drury and Jack Rathbone, plus junior Jack Donato. Each are forwards except Rathbone, who patrols the blueline at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center.

All had fathers who preceded them in playing hockey at the NCAA Division I level.

(Harvard actually features a fourth Jack this season in junior forward Jack Badini, who could not be reached through the university for this feature. Badini didn’t follow a parent into the Division I hockey ranks, although according to his online bio, his aunt, Stacey, competed in the 1998 Nagano Olympics in freestyle skiing.)

So how does one draw the attention of a particular Jack from the others at Harvard, especially off the ice and sans jersey numbers? The group doesn’t go by their first names when at the rink, or almost anywhere else, and are usually differentiated from one another by their nicknames.

Rathbone, a Vancouver Canucks draft choice out of West Roxbury, Mass., says he’s responded for years to “Bonezy”, with a “z.”

“It was passed down to me by my dad my entire life,” he admitted. “Everyone’s got their own nickname.”

He recalled how one of the Crimson group would previously snap his head around whenever someone mentioned the name “Jack.”

“It was pretty funny,” said Rathbone.

Vancouver Canucks prospect Jack Rathbone has averaged better than a point per game this season, scoring four goals and 18 points in 17 games (photo: Roman J. Uschak).

Donato, the younger son of Harvard head coach Ted, and brother of former Crimson/NHL forward Ryan, earned his moniker after he enrolled in college.

“Diesel,” he revealed. “It’s stuck with me since freshman year. I think it was (then-senior) Seb Lloyd who gave it to me.”

Drury, a Carolina Hurricanes pick, was more succinct about his own personal sobriquet.

“Drurs, mostly,” he admitted. “That’s pretty much it.”

Concerning on-ice lineage, Rathbone’s father, Jason, skated for Boston College from 1988 to 1992, and served as an assistant captain with the Eagles as a senior. He later coached his son with the Cape Cod Whalers 16U squad.

When it came time to choose a college, though, the dad didn’t unduly influence the son to attend his alma mater.

“He was great throughout the process, and he let me make my own decision,” said Jack Rathbone. “He definitely informed me, and he had a great experience at BC—but he made the process easier on me, on where to go.

“Once I stepped on campus here (at Harvard), I knew it was where I wanted to go, and I made the right choice,” he said.

To Donato, who grew up in the shadow of campus as the son of the longtime Crimson head coach, Harvard was always the plan, although he wasn’t originally sure if it would come to fruition.

“It was probably more of a dream, at first,” he recalled. “I was a late bloomer growing up. I spent a ton of time here as a kid, and when I knew I was going to play Division I, it was a no-brainer.

“With the history of the program and the university, it always felt like home, and ever since I stepped on campus, it’s been interesting,” added Donato. “I played with my brother my freshman year, and I’ll always remember that, and having my dad as coach has been unique. There’s definitely pros and cons, but I look at it as a unique and positive experience, having him as my coach and mentor.”

Jack Drury excels on faceoffs and was a second-round pick of Carolina in 2018 (photo: Roman J. Uschak).

One of those unique situations is how the son refers to the father during an actual game, whether it’s in Cambridge or somewhere on the road. Donato either defers to someone else on the roster to speak for him, or else uses his own go-to code for his famous father, who himself led Harvard to the 1989 NCAA title as tournament MVP, and then skated in over 800 career NHL games.

“It’s ‘Coach’ or ‘Teddy,’” said the younger Donato matter-of-factly. “It’s never ‘Dad’ on the bench, that’s for sure.”

For Drury, who grew up in Illinois, playing at Harvard has proven to be a homecoming of sorts. His father, Ted, played three seasons at Harvard between 1989 and 1993, captained the Crimson his final campaign, and went on to appear in over 400 NHL contests before completing his playing career in Europe.

“I visited a lot when I was younger, when my parents attended different events,” said the younger Drury. “I had two visits here in high school, met the guys on the team and Coach Donato, and it was a great fit.

“I committed my sophomore year of high school, and throughout juniors it was just figuring out what year I would come in,” recalled Drury. “I was part of a really good class last year, and a great team, and it’s just been great.”

His father’s influence can still be felt at Harvard, somewhat literally, although the younger Drury isn’t fazed by his father’s shadow.

“It’s very cool,” said the son. “There’s a big picture of him on the wall (at the rink), which is kind of funny to look at, but there’s no pressure. He let me create my own path, and I enjoy creating that with my own team now.”

Drury also pointed out that he has lot of family on Cape Cod and the East Coast in general. That contingent includes his uncle, Chris, who was the 1998 Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner and a three-time All-America selection at Boston University.

Chris Drury also won the Stanley Cup with Colorado in 2001, in an NHL career that lasted over 1,000 games, and was recently named general manager of the 2020 U.S. Men’s National Team.

Badini, meanwhile, ranks among the top 10 in the nation in winning over 60 percent of his faceoff attempts so far this season.

“(Faceoffs are) something, as my career has progressed, I’ve taken more pride in,” said Badini, an Anaheim Ducks draftee, to The Harvard Crimson in November. “Playing AAA hockey growing up, my teams liked to run a lot of faceoff plays, so if you can’t win the faceoff, you can’t run the play.”

The Crimson sported a 10-6-4 overall record as of Feb. 1, bolstered by a 6-0-0 overall start, despite a four-game losing streak from Nov. 29 to Dec. 7. Harvard rebounded with a 3-2-1 mark in its first six games following Christmas, including a win and a tie with Arizona State in Irvine, Calif.

Badini got things going with a goal in the win over the Sun Devils.

“Personally, I felt pretty good,” he told The Crimson afterwards. “My legs felt good, felt like in mid-season form. So that was important for us—getting back in the swing of things.”

Jack Badini, another faceoff specialist for Harvard, was chosen by Anaheim in the third round of the 2017 NHL Draft (photo: Roman J. Uschak).

As of the start of February, Harvard sat among the top 20 teams in both the national polls (16th) and the all-important Pairwise Rankings, and was also 8-4-3 in ECAC Hockey play, good for third place in the league.

“I think we definitely got off to a hot start,” said Rathbone. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy the entire way. We hit a skid—but we have great leadership, and we pulled together during the break and had a big weekend versus Arizona State. We have a good group that battles for each other, and we hope to have a great second half.”

“We had a really good start,” concurred Donato. “We have a really young team, with lot of young guys contributing in big roles, and it was a little surprising. We’ve played some good teams, in some challenging venues, and I think our best days are in front of us. Those games lost will help us down the road and towards the NCAAs.”

“It’s been a little up and down,” commented Drury. “We got better throughout the year, and the most important part (of the season) is in front of us. We’re trying to get better every day, and have to make sure we go 100 percent at the right time.”

They agreed that the Crimson has three main targets on its schedule every year. That trifecta consists of the Beanpot in February, the ECAC Hockey playoffs in March, and the NCAAs in March/April. In 2017, Harvard won both the Beanpot and the ECACs, and also made it to the Frozen Four in Chicago.

“We definitely have the same goals, and they’re right there again,” said Rathbone. “We’re excited, and hopefully we’ll bring some hardware home. It’s the most exciting time for hockey players, and we’ve got three things to shoot for and hopefully bring to our school.”

Not making the road any easier prior to the playoffs is the grueling ECAC Hockey schedule, which in the second half of the season includes trips to top-20 teams in Cornell, Dartmouth, and Clarkson for the Crimson.

“Every game we’ve played so far, we’ve had to show up and bring a consistent effort each time,” admitted Rathbone. “What I love about our league is you can’t take a night off.”

“We’ve got a lot of skill and speed, and we’re kind of an anomaly in our league,” offered Donato. “Our opponents are usually older guys, with teams that play a defensive structure, and we’re usually always in tight, one-goal games. It’s great for us, and it’s what’s great about the league, and it’s taught us to focus on the little things that hopefully make us successful come end of the year.”

Drury agreed with his fellow Jacks.

Jack Donato has collected two goals in 20 games this season (photo: Gil Talbot/Harvard Athletics).

“The ECAC is almost all low-scoring, one-goal games,” he said. “Every team competes hard every night, and we have to be ready every single night for a tough game.”

So far this season it was Drury who was pacing the trio in scoring, with 14 goals and 13 assists for 27 points in 17 games. Rathbone sat close behind him, with 6-14-20 points in the same span, while Donato, who helps anchor the Crimson’s checking line, had potted two goals in 20 contests. (Badini, meanwhile, had four goals and 13 points through 20 appearances.)

Just don’t call any of them Jack anymore.

“We have so many Jacks, I don’t think anybody goes by ‘Jack’ at this point,” admitted Donato.

And with Jack, Jack and Jack (plus Jack) helping lead the way, the Crimson will be hoping to ultimately deal all aces when the schedule winds down to this year’s Frozen Four in Detroit.