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Hockey Notes

Again, an Eagle lands

Ferriero latest to graduate to NHL

By Kevin Paul Dupont
October 4, 2009

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Benn Ferriero, last seen wearing Boston’s College’s maroon and gold this past spring, suited up in San Jose’s traditional teal Thursday night, making his NHL debut for the Sharks. Only some five months after leaving the bucolic Chestnut Hill campus, he was smack dab in the middle of the NHL.

“Yeah, I was definitely excited,’’ said the 22-year-old Ferriero, who skated at right wing on a No. 3 checking line with Manny Malhotra and Jamie McGinn. “It’s a pretty cool thing to get in your first NHL game, and especially when it’s opening night and [Colorado] had the Joe Sakic retirement ceremony before the game. As a kid, I always tried to follow the best in the league, and he was one of the best for, what, 18-20 years?’’

Ferriero, who played four full seasons at The Heights, originally was chosen 196th overall by the Coyotes in the 2006 draft. But because he didn’t sign with Phoenix by late this summer, he was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. In fairly short order, he signed a two-year deal (cap hit: $635,000 per season) with San Jose and impressed coach Todd McLellan from the drop of the puck in training camp.

“They haven’t told me anything, but I guess I’m in the lineup,’’ said Ferriero. “I’m still living in a hotel in San Jose, and before I go out looking for an apartment or anything, I’ll wait for them to give me the word on that. For now, I guess I’m playing - at least they haven’t told me otherwise. I think if I wasn’t playing, they would have told me.’’

The Sharks opened their 2009-10 schedule with a surprising 5-2 loss to the lowly Avalanche, who are overstocked with a blend of AHL and borderline NHL talent under new coach Joe Sacco. Other than Patrick Marleau’s two goals, the Sharks couldn’t put anything by Craig Anderson (38 saves). Ferriero’s line, though, mustered seven shots, and four of them were from the speedy and clever Essex, Mass., rookie.

“I thought I played well all the way through camp,’’ said Ferriero, who played his high school hockey at Governor Dummer. “But you never know. I’m just a young guy out of college, and they don’t always get the opportunity right away. I’ll tell you, when they said I would be playing opening night, I was pretty excited.’’

Ferriero is the latest in a long line of Eagles to make it to the NHL. According to coach Jerry York’s office at The Heights, no fewer than 14 ex-Eagles were with NHL clubs on opening night. Proof again that long gone are the days when US college players need not apply for NHL work.

In addition to Ferriero, the list includes:

Andrew Alberts Carolina

Brian Boyle NY Rangers

Scott Clemmensen Florida

Patrick Eaves Detroit

Brian Gionta Montreal

Bill Guerin Pittsburgh

Peter Harrold Los Angeles

Chuck Kobasew Boston

Mike Mottau New Jersey

Brooks Orpik Pittsburgh

Marty Reasoner Atlanta

Rob Scuderi Los Angeles

Ryan Shannon Ottawa

“The four years I spent there definitely helped me mature,’’ said the 5-foot-11-inch, 190-pound Ferriero. “If I’d gone to junior, I wouldn’t have been able to work out as much - the playing schedule is that much busier - and I wouldn’t have been able to get in the weight room, build strength. So it worked out very well for me, and on top of everything else, I got my degree [in business/marketing].’’

By his own admission, Ferriero is somewhat downsized for today’s game.

“I’m not that big when compared to some of the 6-5, 230-pound defenseman you see in the league,’’ he said. “But the game’s not all about size. I try to be fast. I try to be quick.

“It’s a lot about strength and trying to make sure you are always in the right position - little things like the angle you go in to get the puck.’’

Now he just has to find the trick to sticking with one of the most talented, if sometimes most underachieving, rosters in the Original 30. He’s on a club that includes perennial All-Stars such as Jumbo Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley, along with goalie Evgeni Nabokov and Marleau.

“Coming into camp, I was probably the most star-struck then,’’ he said. “But they’re such a great group of guys here. They just welcome you as a teammate right away.

“I was a little nervous going into the game. But once I finally got on the ice and skated that first shift, it just comes down to playing hockey. You relax, and go from there.’’

NHLPA needs work on checking game

It’s a huge day for the NHL Players Association, which continues to self-immolate in the wake of its dismissal of Paul Kelly as executive director.

A week ago, veteran defenseman Chris Chelios urged his union brethren in an ad hoc meeting to consider an independent investigation of the events leading to Kelly’s Aug. 31 dismissal, which came shortly before 4 a.m. following a harried vote in a Chicago hotel room. Chelios also requested that the new five-year deal granted in June to the in-house general counsel, Ian Penny, be rescinded, for what Chelios and others believe to be violations of the union’s constitution.

Today, the NHLPA executive board, comprising the 30 player reps, will meet via conference call, in part to consider Chelios’s suggested initiatives. On Friday, rumors were rampant that two key front office figures - adviser Ron Pink and ombudsman Buzz Hargrove - might resign as early as today. Pink and Hargrove have been rumored for more than a month to be two who helped coax the vote (22-5) that led to Kelly’s dismissal.

The five who voted to keep Kelly: George Parros (Anaheim), Adam Burrish (Chicago), Manny Malhotra (then with Columbus), Chelios (Detroit), and Shawn Horcoff (Edmonton).

Those who dealt him out the door: Garnett Exelby (Atlanta), Andrew Ference (Boston), either Andrew Peters or Adam Mair (Buffalo), Robyn Regehr (Calgary), Ben Guite (Colorado), Steve Ott (Dallas), Bryan Allen (Florida), Matt Greene (Los Angeles), Nick Schultz (Minnesota), Mike Komisarek (then representing Montreal), Dan Hamhuis (Nashville), David Clarkson (New Jersey), Rick DiPietro (Islanders), Steve Valiquette (Rangers), Scott Hartnell (Philadelphia), Dan Winnik (Phoenix), Max Talbot (Pittsburgh), Brad Boyes (St. Louis), Jeff Halpern (Tampa), Matt Stajan (Toronto), Willie Mitchell (Vancouver), and Brooks Laich (Washington).

Three clubs did not participate in the vote: Carolina, Ottawa, and San Jose.

According to a mole inside the NHLPA, its Toronto office lit up like a Marx Brothers movie set last week in the wake of a decision rendered by former Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry, who offered that Kelly had been discharged with just cause.

Russ Conway, the stellar ex-reporter for the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, appeared on radio Wednesday in Toronto, reminding one and all of the relationship McMurtry maintained with Alan Eagleson during the latter’s long reign of terror as the NHLPA’s executive director.

Within two hours of Conway’s remarks, the NHLPA issued a statement noting that it was unaware of McMurtry’s past “interactions’’ with Eagleson, and further noted it would weigh its options on how/if to obtain another opinion.

Penny, meanwhile, remains the interim executive director, and obviously had to be unaware of McMurtry’s sordid past regarding all things NHLPA. That’s leadership? He is the guy now entrusted with union dues and the players’ welfare?

How much longer before one or more members of the rank and file finally has the decency and common sense to walk into the FBI or Labor Canada and ask the obvious: What is going on here?

A lasting image for NHLPA members to ponder: In the wee morning hours after Kelly was ditched, a number of the 22 players who voted him out of office felt compelled to high-five one another in a hallway of the Drake Hotel, just feet from where Kelly’s group stood. All the decorum and decency of a frat party, young men gone wild in an industry that now pays the players some $1.5 billion per annum.

Etc.

A deal with the Devils
Word around downtown Newark is that Rich Krezwick, who for years ran the FleetCenter (a.k.a. The Vault) and guided the Bruins’ business and marketing initiatives, soon will take a similar position as president of the Devils, whose season-ticket base is in need of a substantial boost despite the fact that the former Exit 16Ws perennially put a strong product on the ice. Affable and sharp, Krezwick was among the first to be dismissed in a bizarre, near-total Causeway Street purge that began some three years ago when Charlie Jacobs, son of the club’s owner, began to get his hands into every facet of the business. Krezwick will be an astute hire for the Devils, who forever have struggled for market share in the long and intimidating shadow of Manhattan.

Slice of life
Tough injury on opening night for top Montreal blue liner Andrei Markov, who required surgery to repair a sliced foot tendon suffered in a third-period collision with Habs goalie Carey Price amid Montreal’s 4-3 overtime win. Word among his teammates Friday was that the 30-year-old Russian star could need up to four months for it to mend fully. Meanwhile, the Jaroslav Spacek free agent signing, which looked pricey (three years, nearly $12 million) in July, now looks like the ultimate insurance for the bleu blanc et rouge. The 35-year-old ex-Sabre blue liner logged a team-high 34 shifts and 24:42 in ice time.

Loose pucks
Longtime buddies Rick Tocchet and Adam Oates are together again, the latter officially coming aboard the Tampa Bay coaching staff as an assistant to Tocchet. The two teamed up briefly in the Hub of Hockey for two seasons, 1995-97, but both were gone by the start of the 1997-98 season - the start of the not-so-glorious Jumbo Joe Thornton run . . . Speaking of Jumbo, he opened with a 0-0 -0 Thursday night for the still-top-heavy Sharks. Rocky start for ex-Senator Dany Heatley, who logged an embarrassing minus-3 in his Team Teal debut.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com.

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