“I was like, I’d love an opportunity to go up,” Farnham said. “What do you think I have to do and when I get that opportunity, how will I succeed? And he pretty much said, ‘you have to do what you do here. You have to play that style, you have to bring exactly what you bring, and you have to bring it at that level.’”
A couple of weeks later, Farnham got his chance to do just that – making his NHL debut against the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Dec. 13.
“I got called up with Bryan Rust right after we played in Bridgeport, and we had a car service the next day at 5 a.m.,” Farnham said. “The next thing you know, you’re on a flight to Columbus. I really didn’t sleep the night before that game or during pregame nap or after the game, so I went a good 36 hours without sleep I think (laughs). And I was just going on adrenaline.
“My second game was against Tampa a day or two later, and I still was just so pumped just to be there. You try to make an impression, but you’re just trying to take it all in and embrace your lifelong dream coming true.”
Farnham, who signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Penguins on Monday, ended up playing 10 consecutive games with Pittsburgh over that stretch (and 11 total).
During that time, he won over a lot of fans with his energetic style of play. The feisty fourth-liner was noticeable every shift, especially in the offensive zone, where he used his speed to get in on the forecheck and be physical.
“I just tried to keep it as simple as possible and bring the assets that I have – the speed, being able to draw penalties and agitate and doing that – and then I just tried to keep it as simple as possible,” Farnham said.
That combination of skating and saltiness is what helps separate Farnham. While he’s certainly able to drop the gloves when necessary and has done so many, many times in his pro career thus far – in WBS, the team actually handed out a promotional bobblehead of fan favorite Farnham with no stick or gloves, just fists up in a pugilist stance – in Pittsburgh, he actually sent a lot of guys to the penalty box while staying out of it himself.
“With the players that we have, if you can put that team on the power play, I think it’s a very important thing,” Farnham said. “And just from an energy standpoint and speed and forechecking and the agitating, if you can just bring it all together – it doesn’t have to be all the time, but if you pick your spots and you’re disciplined in doing it and can play a well-rounded game – that’s what I’ve been focusing on the last three years in Wilkes-Barre.
“I think the way the NHL is now, you look at teams like Tampa, Chicago, it seems like it’s built around speed and skating and being able to do that, so I think it plays into my style a lot more.”
Before this past year, Farnham’s goal had always been just to play one NHL game. And for an undrafted kid out of Boston who felt that he literally had to fight for his first professional contract after four years at Brown University, that was enough.
But as Farnham remained in Pittsburgh and his confidence and comfort level grew, he realized something: he didn’t want to go.
“I never experienced the NHL, so I didn’t know. I was always just like, I want to play one game,” he said. “And then once you get that game or you get a few games, you’re like, well, I want to be there full-time. You just get that taste and then honestly, you’re a lot hungrier than you were before.”
Farnham’s taken that mentality back to Boston, where he lives during the offseason. He’s been working with his trainer, Mark Finley, and when I spoke to Farnham, he had also just attended his first boxing session of the summer with Tommy McInerney.
The trainer, who’s based out of a facility called The Ring Boxing Club in downtown Boston, has worked with a number of athletes in the area – including former Bruin Shawn Thornton, a veteran NHL enforcer.
“Somebody referred me to (McInerney) after my senior year in college, because I was going to play pro and I was thinking I’m probably going to end up having to fight,” Farnham said.
He added with a laugh, “I didn’t think I’d have like 55 fights in the first three years, but I thought I was at least going to get in a few scraps here and there. So I got involved with him and I liked it. Now we’re getting into more detail. He’s just teaching me a lot of stuff. It’s not exactly like being on the ice and holding someone’s jersey, but you can work on so many things and he’s really helped me out a lot.”
Farnham plans to spar with McInerney “a bunch” over the next month-and-a-half before he returns to Pittsburgh in September for training camp, where he’ll be ready to battle for a spot in the bottom-six.
“Every summer when you sign your contract again, you get that jolt of energy and you’re just so excited to be back,” he said. “It’s really the only organization that I’ve been a part of; they’re the organization that gave me my shot. So I’m pumped to be back and can’t wait to get there in September.”