|As if making his NHL debut wasn't special enough, Red Wings rookie Landon Ferraro did so against the Maple Leafs, the team he grew up liking as a young boy. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings) |
– With his parents in the stands and the Toronto Maple Leafs on the visiting bench, rookie center Landon Ferraro
couldn’t think of a better way to make his NHL debut at Joe Louis Arena.
“I think just at the end, everyone, all the guys putting their sticks up and I just kind of took an extra second looking around,” said Ferraro, who made his league debut in Detroit’s 3-2 victory on March 18. “There was a lot of Maple Leafs fans out but at the same time the Detroit fans were real loud and real excited at the end so that’s probably what I’m going to remember most.”
The 22-year-old’s first NHL game was everything he had imagined and more – almost.
“I mean if I were to get or were to ask for more it would’ve been nice to score, maybe one more shot and a little backhand,” Ferraro said. “But no I’m really happy with how everything went. It was just kind of nice to get that one under the belt and kind of be able to move on now.”
Ferraro was the seventh player to make his NHL debut with Detroit last season, earning two shots and two penalty minutes in four games with the Wings during one week in March.
Although Ferraro’s time in Hockeytown was short, appearing in his first NHL game helped the youngster get a taste of the league he’s dreamed about joining for years.
“I think it went pretty well,” Ferraro said of his performance against Toronto, his favorite childhood team. “I was a little nervous at the beginning and other than, I thought I could kind of cut through the D and the guy’s stick was a little longer than I thought and it kind of ended up being a deep pass to (Phil) Kessel for a breakaway and (Jimmy Howard) had to make a really big save but especially at that time of the game … other than that I thought I played pretty well and you know kind of got comfortable a bit and just kind of settled in.”
The Wings veterans had a hand in helping the 22-year-old relax, too.
“It’s the same game just enjoy it and keep my feet moving and if I do that I won’t mess up too bad,” Ferraro said of the advice he received in Detroit’s dressing room. “So just kind of made me have a little laugh and relax, that was the biggest thing.”
The biggest thing other than knowing his mother and father were in the stands watching, of course.
“It’s something you’ve heard lots before, it’s not just my hard work that’s gotten me here,” Ferraro said. “It’s watching and being around the rink with my dad and my mom driving me to practices every morning, especially he was on the road a lot. So it was real nice for both of them to be able to get in and be here for this. It’s just as much theirs as mine.”
Ferraro’s parents traveled to Detroit not knowing whether or not they would see their son make his NHL debut.
The rookie was only supposed to play against Toronto if veteran Todd Bertuzzi wasn’t available, but Detroit scratched another rookie instead, Teemu Pulkkinen, and inserted both Ferraro and Bertuzzi into its lineup. Ferraro skated on a line with Cory Emmerton and Brendan Smith, who shifted to the forward position for the first two periods to help the injury-ridden Wings.
“I thought he did a good job, he played within himself, played his role to a T,” Howard said of Ferraro. “That's what we're gonna need. He blocked some big shots and it was great to see.”
But there was no one happier than Ray Ferraro, who watched his son make his debut in the same building where he ended his professional career just over 12 years ago.
“There’s no chance I won’t (tear up),” Ray said. “I try to disassociate myself from it when I talk about it but to watch him skate at the start of the game will be incredible.”
Landon Ferraro logged 7:47 of ice time in 13 shifts against Toronto, recording one shot, two hits and one blocked shot. The center also played on the Wings’ penalty kill, gaining valuable experience in a position he knows he has to excel at in order to eventually earn a permanent spot in Detroit’s lineup.
“They chose to have confidence in me and that they can count on me on the PK and that’s where I’m going to have to try and make this team next year is being solid five-on-five and then being really good on the PK,” Ferraro said. “That’s where I’m going to have to try and earn my ice time and earn a spot so it’s kind of nice to get a feel for it.”
Ferraro finished the regular season with 15 goals and 16 assists through 70 games with the Wings’ minor-league affiliate in Grand Rapids.