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Feisty Sniper Finally Getting A Shot In Boston
Boston Bruins: Meet the Bruins
By Greg Post
When one flips through a University of Maine media guide, it's quite possible they may stumble across a rather interesting record. Winger Peter Ferraro's 106 penalty minutes during the 1992-93 campaign are a Black Bears' all-time single-season record. "106 penalty minutes is something I'm certainly not proud of," says Ferraro, "but I've always been a hot-tempered player and person in general. I think playing with my brother, Chris, on the same line at Maine pumped me up even more. It seemed like many times when my brother was getting cheap-shotted, I would go in there and stick up for him. I know he can stick up for himself, but I was always there for him."
The Ferraro twins, until January 9, 1997, had always been there for each other, no matter what team they were playing for. "We started skating at six-years old and we knew right then and there that we wanted to become professional hockey players," says Ferraro. The two were nearly inseparable until Peter, the younger sibling by a mere one minute, was re-claimed on waivers by the New York Rangers from the Pittsburgh Penguins just over a year ago. Chris remained in the Steel City to finish the season and has since moved on to the Edmonton Oiler organization. "Our best experiences together have been just playing with each other our entire career," says Ferraro. "Up until last year, we'd played together our whole life. Winning the national championship at Maine was definitely a great experience. The Quebec PeeWee tournament and playing on the Olympic tour together were great experiences for both of us."
Peter grew up with his family on Long Island and, though it wasn't a hockey hotbed, made the most of his surroundings. "I'm actually from Sound Beach but I tell people Port Jefferson because no one has ever heard of Sound Beach," says Ferraro. "Where I live there are a lot of little towns connected to each other and Port Jefferson is right on the North Shore, right on Long Island Sound. It's a really beautiful place. It's tough, because it's Long Island, and growing up there was a tough way of life. It's very fast-paced and people are very rude I can say that because I'm from there but in terms of a hockey player, it's not very beneficial to come out of Sound Beach, Long Island, New York."
The Ferraro brothers did their best to hit the ice or the pavement as often as possible, modeling their games after NHL superstars of the 1980's. "We always had the same favorite players but if I called I was Wayne Gretzky, he would say he's Mike Bossy or someone like that," says Peter. "Growing up we never really had a favorite team, we just enjoyed watching all the different players play the game of hockey. We just had certain favorite players that we liked to follow."
When it came time to pursue a college education and continue their hockey careers, the Ferraro's found a perfect school nestled, as some people would say, in the middle of nowhere, just outside of Bangor, Maine (Orono). "We decided that we could have gone to the bigger schools like Michigan, Michigan State or Wisconsin but we wanted to go to a smaller type school," explains Ferraro. "We wanted an atmosphere where we could really just concentrate on playing on hockey, mostly. Obviously, we had to take care of our academics, too, or we wouldn't play. But I think at a bigger school we would have had more disruptions.
"I knew that there was going to be a good team there and that (current Mighty Duck, Paul) Kariya was coming in. And the players that were already there like (Flyers' farmhand Jim) Montgomery were very good. We knew we were jumping into a great situation by choosing Maine."
They sure hit that nail squarely on the head. The Black Bears went on to have one of the best seasons in college hockey history, posting a 42-1-2 record and winning the 1993 NCAA national championship. "We started out great and it just seemed like we couldn't lose," recalls Ferraro. "We'd go into some games laughing, just thinking how amazing the season was going.
"We lost that one game in overtime to Boston University and it was kind of good because we had forgotten how to lose. It showed us how much losing really stinks. I think guys were becoming a little too cocky. The one loss was good but two losses would've put us in a bad mood," he says with a grin. "It was such a great season and it was so much fun to win a championship that year."
His coach, Shawn Walsh, has for some time been one of college hockey's elite mentors. "He's a coach that knows a lot about the game," says Ferraro. "He prepares a team really well and he's the type of coach that demands a lot because he wants to win. I learned a lot from him and, because I left after one year, I didn't get to experience everything he had to offer. You'd like to get a couple years out of someone like that."
After his stellar freshman season, in which he recorded 18-32=50 totals in 36 games, Ferraro had a brief four-game stint at Maine (3-6=9 totals) before heading off to play for the United States National Team, and eventually the U.S. Olympic squad. "It was the greatest experience; for six months you get to play and travel all around the world," says Ferraro. "You play against the best competition in the world. You get to the Olympics and for two weeks that's all that matters. After six months, only two weeks matter."
The red, white and blue, for which he recorded six goals in eight games, did not figure in the gold medal match, as Sweden defeated Canada for the ultimate prize. "Unfortunately for us, we were great throughout the whole tour and then we weren't at our best for those two weeks," says Ferraro. "It was kind of unfortunate because we had a really good winning record. But, like I said, it was great and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
"We went to some very unique places. Russia was probably one of the better experiences in my life. We were just lucky to travel around to a lot of the states and Canada. Vancouver was very, very nice. All those countries in Europe are really nice, too. Lillehammer, Norway, where the Olympics were held, and Sweden were beautiful places. Anytime you get to go overseas, it's a great experience. You get to see the different ways of life and the different cultures.
After spending the majority of the 1993-94 season playing internationally, Ferraro landed in Atlanta, playing for the International Hockey League's Atlanta Knights (15-24=39 in 61 games). "That was a situation that was kind of tough on my brother and I," says Ferraro. "At the time, we didn't know what the right procedure was to do. Looking back, we probably should have gone back to Maine and pursued our college career.
"We made a bad decision by going to Atlanta and after that we decided to sign with the (New York) Rangers. Atlanta was a great city and they were a great team to play for. I'm not knocking it but at that stage in our career, it wasn't the right decision. You can always sign a pro contract but you can't go back and play college hockey after you sign (with a pro team). It just seemed like we rushed it and at the time we shouldn't have."
Though he somewhat regrets his Georgia stay, he predicts nothing but success for the NHL's newest team, the Thrashers, set to begin play in the fall of 1999. "Atlanta was a tremendous city to play in," says Ferraro. "I don't know why they lost the Atlanta Flames to Calgary (transferred on June 24, 1980). It's definitely a great city and anyone who gets a chance to play there will really, really like it."
Peter was the Rangers' first pick, 24th overall, in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. Upon selecting Ferraro, the Rangers were not adding a tough guy to their roster, as the aforementioned UMaine penalty minute-numbers might lead you to believe, yet they were adding a player whom they hoped would eventually give them some offensive firepower with his goal-scoring ability. "I think my greatest attributes are my work ethic, my speed and quickness, and my ability to create offensive chances and be feisty all over the ice," says Ferraro.
He put those skills to use for the first time at the NHL level in 1995-96, playing in five games with the big club. His first NHL point came when he set up his brother's first NHL goal against the Florida Panthers on April 8th. "I think the most exciting thing for me was when my brother came up to New York and scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game," says Ferraro. "It was assisted by Brian Leetch and myself on the powerplay. That is a one of the greatest memories of playing with my brother."
Ferraro played two scoreless games with the Rangers the following season and again spent most of the year toiling with their top American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, New York. From 1995 to 1997, spanning parts of three seasons, the 5'10", 180-pound winger tallied an astounding 88 goals and 186 points in 155 games. He twice led Binghamton in scoring and was named an AHL First Team All-Star after his 101-point season in 1995-96. He holds two AHL records, for powerplay goals (27 in 1995-96) and shots (392 in 1996-97).
After spending the 1997 exhibition season with the Rangers, Ferraro and his brother were snagged by the Penguins in the waiver draft on October 1st. "It's kind of been a rocky road for me in terms of getting here," says Ferraro. "I've learned a lot along the way. I thought Pittsburgh was going to give me another opportunity but their lineup was already established as far as lines and the system they played.
"It just seemed like from the start it was tough to get in the lineup consistently. I'd have some good games, do well, and then all of a sudden someone would come back from an injury. Then I'd be back out of the lineup or playing a minimum role. I guess you have to pay your dues along the way and then hopefully more ice time will come along." He posted 3-4=7 totals, including his first NHL goal on October 28, 1997, vs. Calgary, but did not figure into the long-term plans of first-year coach Kevin Constantine. He was re-claimed by the Rangers in January and played only one NHL game ironically at Boston's FleetCenter on January 31st before being assigned to the AHL's Hartford Wolfpack. He scored 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points in 36 games, finishing eighth in team scoring despite playing in fewer than half of their games.
Ferraro signed with Boston as a free agent on July 21, 1998.
"I had a bunch of teams that wanted to offer me a contract and there were a lot of teams that wanted my brother and I together," says Ferraro, looking back at this summer's inquiries. "I figured I had played in Massachusetts in the past and it was a situation I had a gut feeling about. Luckily I made this decision because I'm very, very happy here.
"I think in the past it's been frustrating but here it's not that way at all," says Ferraro. "I know what my role is and I've done whatever they've needed me to do. It's fine by me. I like these coaches and feel I can learn a lot playing for them. There's a great bunch of guys here and I'll do whatever it takes to win. That's what we're all here for."
"Peter's pretty similar to me in a lot of ways," says hard-nosed checker Rob DiMaio. "When he's healthy he's very effective. He can do a lot of good things and he can pretty much play anywhere. He's got offensive skills and he plays hard defensively. He's an intense competitor and he plays hard."
Those words are echoed by other teammates. "His speed is his greatest asset," says P-J Axelsson. "He's got good skills, he likes to shoot the puck and he can score."
"He's on the puck so much and he's such a quick player, says center Joe Thornton. "He's little but he doesn't play little. He plays like he's 6'3" tall. He's tenacious out there; he has a good shot and good moves. He's just an all-around good player."
"Every time you go to the rink here you learn a lot," says Ferraro, "and that's something that's very important. I've played with a lot of great guys along the way but some of these guys, like Ray, are very helpful. He's just like everyone else; he's very down-to-earth and I can't say enough about him.
"Ken Baumgartner knows a lot. Anytime we have any questions, us young guys go up to Kenny and ask him what we should do in certain situations. He's a good guy to turn to for answers."
"Peter's brought enthusiasm, speed and the ability to put the puck in the net," says Baumgartner, a 12-year NHL veteran. "He's been able to play a number of different roles in this organization, be it a winger, a center, a second-liner or a fourth-liner. Those players are quite valuable."
The need for someone who can play the game as Ferraro can is very great, as teams look for a winning combination. Nonetheless, at this point in his career, Ferraro is looking to simply contribute and not worry about things he can't control. "You look at salaries and stuff like that it's nice to get a nice salary but it's even better when you can win a championship together," says Ferraro. "That's the important thing."
© 1998 The Boston Bruins Hockey Club