Former Professional Hockey Player, Sports Dad, Broadcaster and Husband to a Hall of Famer Speaks Out About Youth Hockey.
We can learn a lot listening to those with experience. A lot.
You could say that Ray Ferraro comes from the ultimate sports family. A former professional hockey player, he is the father of 4 children, and is currently married to Cammi Granato, Hockey Hall of Famer and former Olympian.
Ferraro currently is one of the top voices in hockey broadcasting. His knowledge of the game is unquestioned, his description of the play, the insight into how players and coaches think, predicting what will come next and the way he delivers all make him one of the very best at what he does. He has a history of excelling.
Prior to being one of the best commentators in sport, Ray was and is a dad. He is a father to Landon and Matt, both drafted and played in the WHL, and Landon has had a successful pro career, recently named to Canada’s men’s hockey Olympic team to play in the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. He also has 2 young sons in youth sports with Granato and is living in British Columbia. (Granato is currently a scout with the NHL’s Seattle Kraken).
Prior to being a Dad, Ray played hockey. He did not just play, he was very, very good.
He played 18 years /1258 games in the NHL, scoring 408 goals and collecting 898 points. Prior to the NHL, Ray scored 192 points in 1 season with the Brandon Wheat Kings. Personal note, Ray played in my timeline. When this writer was in university, former teammates would speak about how good this guy was (circa 1984-85). He was known as one of the best to ever come out of the Western Hockey League.
Prior to playing pro hockey, Ray was a youth athlete. Growing up in Trail, BC, Canada, he played in the 1976 Little League World Series in Pennsylvania. He is he son of an Italian immigrant who mixed cement for a living and during his formative years had summer jobs doing the same.
When Ray Ferraro speaks about youth sport and the state of minor hockey today, he carries a lot of credibility from his experiences.
Below are some notes from a talk he gave to a local minor hockey association in the Vancouver area. The content of this talk has lessons that apply not only to that region and sport, but to most youth sports in most regions in the western world.
All coaches, parents and stakeholders should have this on their certification curriculum as a guideline to assist /support the escorting of our young people through the sporting experience.
A few years ago, Ferraro was asked to talk to parents of a hockey club that was going through a tough time, with parent expectations at an all-time high.
This is what Ferraro told the parents:
· Minor hockey is out of control in terms of parents chasing the dream for their kids instead of kids deciding on their own how passionate they are for it and how bad they want it.
· In the last 10 years only 21 kids who either played at North Shore Winter Club Hockey (North Vancouver, BC) or Burnaby Winter Club Hockey Academy (Vancouver, BC) have appeared in at least ONE NHL regular season game. Point is if your banking on your son collecting an NHL paycheck to solidify his and your financial future you seriously need to stop and come up with a new plan and now.
· The odds of going pro are extremely low but the odds of having to find a career and a job to pay bills and be a husband and father are extremely high and it’s not dictated by if you played AAA (highest level) hockey.
· Parents need to enjoy the ride while you have it … your son’s minor hockey days end too quickly and often times people end up regretting what they did not know then and what they ending up missing because they were focused on everything but their kid having fun.
· As a parent who devotes time and money to your son, the only right you have to ask is they give it their best … not how much ice time they get, if they play on the power play, who is their winger or D partner.
· Don’t pay for power skating, dryland training, skill development and expect your son to score 50 goals, if you decide to invest in extras do it because your son asked for it and wants to improve and has a smile on his face each and every time … too many parents decide what they want their kids to do instead of their kids asking to do it.
· 12 month hockey is wrong … organized skills sessions, tryouts, spring hockey is too much and too taxing … kids can shoot pucks, stick handle, play street hockey but they need out of the mental insanity of a hockey rink and need to be engaged in something other than hockey … the time away reinforces the passion to want it.
· Coaches are coaches, we all know the game and think this should be done a certain way … how come we never tell our kids math teacher how to teach calculus but we think as parents we have the right to tell a hockey coach how much ice time and with whom and when our kids should play?
· When you evaluate your kids season, never base it on how many banners they won, what provincial they won, what tourneys they went to and won … ask yourself what improved from September to April, what did he learn or improve upon including non-hockey stuff … evaluate the season besides wins and losses but gains and improvements. Just let them play, learn and develop. Pressure is high enough, no need to make it worse.
· I have a son who is going through the rigors of pro hockey. Hockey is a tough racket. Growing up, my dad never talked to me after a game or practice, I did that with my kids.
Wise words that we can all learn from someone’s who has “been there done that!”
Father interviewing son: