Since their retirement as players from hockey, all twin brothers Peter and Chris Ferraro wanted was to provide youngsters a chance to perfect their craft on the ice while offering sound advice on the proper path to success.
That opportunity was certainly bolstered earlier this month when the Ferraro brothers joined Ronald and Joel Friedman as co-partners of the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League. The Ferraro brothers are also partners with the Friedman's in the development of the new Ferraro Brothers Ice Center in East Meadow, N.Y., as well as the expanding hockey camp and training businesses run by the Ferraros.
For the Ferraros, working the business side for a team in the USHL presented a golden opportunity for them to expose aspiring players on Long Island and along the East Coast to the nation's only Tier 1 junior hockey league. The USHL is where both Peter and Chris accelerated their hockey careers.
Peter and Chris Ferraro
want to expose aspiring players on Long Island and along the East Coast to the nation's only Tier 1 junior hockey league. (Photo: Muskegon Lumberjacks)
"We were always top players in the country for our age group, but it was those critical years in the USHL that really make or break a player's career and the direction they go," Chris Ferraro told NHL.com. "That's where Peter and I really flourished."
The Ferraros are legends in the USHL as both played two record-setting seasons in the league (1990-92) before being selected by the New York Rangers in the 1992 NHL Draft -- Peter in the first round (No. 24) and Chris in the fourth round (No. 85).
Peter led the league with 101 points during the 1991-92 campaign while splitting time in Dubuque and Waterloo, and was named both Forward of the Year and Player of the Year.
As a rookie, Chris went on to record a then-record 53 goals and 97 points on the way to earning Forward of the Year honors in 1990-91 with Dubuque. Both brothers would ultimately play at the University of Maine and win a national championship in 1993.
"Players on Long Island, or along the East Coast, are not familiar enough with the USHL and it drives us crazy because we see the talent coming through this area," Chris Ferraro said. "This will give us an opportunity to have a direct pipeline from here [on Long Island] to the USHL. Develop with us from the beginning and have that goal of getting to the USHL and gain that exposure to the NCAA and then the NHL. That's the route we took and it worked."
To make that message even more clear, former NHL goalie John Vanbiesbrouck, a member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, has been named the team's new general manager.
Vanbiesbrouck, who volunteers a good deal of time as vice president for USA Hockey, will oversee much of the business operations in Muskegon. It will mark his first managerial position with a team since 2002-03 when he served as GM/coach for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League.
"The difference in the USHL is having that pathway to college and even though there's been an increase in players drafted out of the league, it's highly likely they are going to attend college first so the development arm of the USHL is centralized," Vanbiesbrouck told NHL.com. "Not only are you playing in a great league and will be able to develop and get a college commitment, but no player really ages out. By that I mean when you're 20 years old, there's still hope of playing Division 1 hockey and that's an aspect that no other league in the world can offer."
Vanbiesbrouck spent 19 seasons in the NHL and played for five different teams, including a 10 years for the New York Rangers. He represented the United States internationally for a number of years and was a part of the 1998 Winter Olympic Team. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
"I think one of the learning curves right now is how you communicate with players, parents and advisors," he said. "You have to find out their mechanisms. Are you texting, emailing or calling? You want to try and get into the realm of the new and younger players, as well as having them get into yours."
The Lumberjacks are coming off their most successful season since joining the USHL in 2010-11. The club posted a 31-23-10 record and earned its second berth in three years into the Clark Cup playoffs. Three members of the team in 2012-13 were drafted this past June, including forward Connor Hurley (Buffalo Sabres) and defensemen Michael Brodzinski (San Jose Sharks) and Ben Storm (Colorado Avalanche).
"Like every other team, we have gaps at age groups that you'll try to fill in -- you're trying to put the best team on the ice," Vanbiesbrouck said. "But you have to be realistic with how your duty of developing players is going to be handled. I think we'll keep our mind focused on what our duty is of developing hockey players and the rest of it is going to be secondary."
Todd Krygier, a veteran of more than 500 NHL games and former coach at the high school and youth levels in Michigan, was named the team's head coach on June 6.
"I like Todd's energy and enthusiasm," Vanbiesbrouck said. "He seems to come up with stuff that others aren't doing or have tried to do behind the bench; it might be unconventional but I like his experience."
Chris Ferraro says Vanbiesbrouck is the perfect fit for the organization.
"We all share the same vision," he said. "John will be our eyes in the sky in Muskengon because of our project here on the East Coast. We'll be back and forth as much as we can, but John will be the one monitoring things."