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It's a Family Affair
By Tricia McMillan, AHL Correspondent
LCS: Guide to Hockey, Issue 58
Chris and Peter Ferraro may be identical twins but they're not necessarily identical. It's possible (if difficult) to tell them apart visually, and their personalities and signatures are definitely different. But they also give many of the same answers when interviewed separately, and they're certainly identical when on the ice and headed for the other team's goal.
The Ferraros terrorized opposing AHL goaltending last season with a combined 200 points in 145 games for Binghamton; Peter finished fourth in league scoring, Chris sixth. Together they also tallied 37 power-play goals, 365 PiMs, and six game misconducts, and in the playoffs Chris had a four-goal game (Peter had six points in the same game). The twins are doing it again this season, as Peter (13-11-24) currently leads the team in scoring with Chris (13-10-23) only one point of his pace.
But even with their superlative numbers, the Ferraros have yet to get a full chance in the NHL, largely due to the Rangers' current reliance on veterans and 'win now, not later' philosophy. That the twins are somewhat less than gigantic (5'10", 185) in a hockey era which values size doesn't help, even though neither Ferraro thinks their size should be an issue.
"You look at players like Ray Ferraro and Pat Verbeek, they're all the same height [as us] and they've been given the opportunity to compete," says Peter. "We've played some exhibition games in which we've played very well and we didn't feel there was any problem. There's a lot of players who are our size that are in the NHL."
"A bigger heart's going to get you more than your physical presence," adds Chris.
The other obstacle the two have encountered is the belief they can't play without each other.
"People might feel that we can't play without each other but we've proven that we can play without each other. We haven't even played on the same line that much this year at all and we're both still putting up pretty good numbers," says Chris.
"Playing together all our lives has been beneficial for us because we have a feeling where each other is out there and we're very similar players so we have a knack for where each other are out there," he continues, "and at the same time sometimes it's tough because people categorize us together."
The twins were born on Long Island on January 24, 1973 (Chris is a few minutes older) and began their hockey careers at age six in the local police athletic league. From there the pair embarked on a neverending search for better competition which took them to Philadelphia, back to New York, to the Tabor Academy in Massachusetts and then all the way to Iowa and the U.S. Hockey League. While both Ferraros were drafted by the Rangers in the 1992 NHL draft (Peter in the first round, Chris in the fourth) the twins were more interested in college and joined the University of Maine Black Bears.
"I knew that [Maine] was a great hockey school and there were going to be great players and I wanted to play with great players, to improve myself," explains Peter. Maine had some great players indeed; the Ferraros found themselves playing with eventual Hobey Baker winner Paul Kariya as well as future NHLers Patrice Tardif, Garth Snow, Mike Dunham and Jim Montgomery, and the Bears went on to win the NCAA championship. (Another Maine teammate, Andy Silverman, now plays for Binghamton as well.)
Next stop: Team USA. Both twins tried out for and played with the United States national team during the team's preparation for the 1994 Winter Olympics, but things were less than perfect this time out: Chris was the team's final cut.
"I had a great tryout, I played very well right in the beginning of the season, then I came down with mono and that kind of ruined my whole year," Chris explains.
"I played the whole season with mono and still managed to be the 3rd or 4th leading scorer on the team with very limited ice time but... you've got a whole season playing on a team and working out and working hard to stay with the team and then at the last second they say 'well, we don't need you anymore', it hurt."
The Olympic experience went considerably better for Peter, who played in all of the U.S. games. "Playing for the U.S. National Team is the best experience of my life," Peter gushes. "You're travelling around the world playing with the best players in the world and I have nothing but great things to say. If I had that opportunity again I would definitely do it again."
After the Olympics ended, the conventional choices were to return to Maine or sign with the Rangers and report to Binghamton. "We kind of wanted to keep that high level of play [from the Olympics] so we felt going back to college would kind of be a step down," says Chris.
The twins weren't close to signing with the Rangers at that point, so they opted for Door Number Three and signed with the IHL's Atlanta Knights. Two years later, they agree the decision to go to the 'I' was a decision made primarily by their agent and wasn't the best thing they could have done.
"We were young, we were taking his professional advice and it was a great experience for us... but now that I look back I kinda wish I would have spent another year in college," Chris says regretfully. Peter is more blunt: "It wasn't a decision that should have been made."
The stint in the IHL did encourage both the twins and the Rangers to make a deal, something neither side had been in a hurry to do. "We couldn't come to an agreement that would satisfy both sides right away so we had to wait it out a little bit... it was a long process, but we got it done and we're happy to be in the organization now," says Chris.
It was reported that the primary difference between the sides during negotiating was the Rangers' insistence the twins should be paid as a first-rounder and a fourth-rounder, while the Ferraros felt they should be paid equally. Neither twin is happy with the common perception that Peter is the better prospect as they firmly believe they have the same talent.
"[Peter]'s a first-rounder, so he's always going to get a little more respect than I am... but it does bother me at times. It's not like there's a huge difference between my brother and I," thinks Chris. "It bothers me," echoes Peter. "I think that we're both of equal talent."
The Ferraros were called up to New York together last season, making their debuts in the NHL April 8 against the Panthers and displaying their offensive talents with Peter getting his first NHL point assisting on Chris' first NHL goal. But Chris played only two games and Peter five, before both were returned to Binghamton to continue working on the rest of their game.
"I just basically try to work on my weaknesses... whether it's system wise, picking up a late man or backchecking or just individual stuff," says Chris, who was a Gretzky fan when younger but now tries to emulate Jeremy Roenick.
"There's always room to improve no matter who you are... you can never improve too much," says Peter, who still admires Wayne Gretzky. "[Gretzky] was a great role model and a great player to learn your offensive talents from."
The primary role models for both Chris and Peter, though, are their parents, who frequently moved the family around the country to follow the twins' hockey pursuits. Their parent's dedication has not gone unnoticed.
"They did sacrifice a lot, but at the same time they enjoyed... watching us play hockey and watching us develop and get better," says Chris. "They're just happy that we're happy and we're able to play at this level right now and whether it's here or the NHL they're proud of us. Whether we hang them up today or ten years from now they're still proud of us... it's nice to have that support."
Of course, the twins have the unusual benefit of having family support, no matter where they are, in each other. Peter sums it all up: "There's nothing like having family by your side your whole career."
© 1996 LCS: Guide to Hockey