IT’S never a simple decision leaving the town where you grew up, let alone the hometown team you’ve spent your whole career playing for since you were 11 years old and enjoyed plenty of success with.
But last summer, at the age of 22, Luke Ferrara took such a gamble, taking up the offer of a full-time contract with Elite League Champions, Sheffield Steelers.
After a very brief exposure to the UK’s top-flight with Cardiff Devils in 2012-13, it was the same coach, Gerad Adams, who again gave Ferrara another chance at the top level after he had taken over at the Steelers.
Last season saw the youngster make 22 appearances for the South Yorkshire club as Adams led them to a fourth regular season title.
Adams was surprisingly sacked at the end of the campaign and replaced by Paul Thompson, who wasted no time in giving Ferrara the opportunity to prove himself on a full-time basis.
So far this season, he has been one of the Steelers’ eight ever-presents, registering five points in 39 games, including one goal.
Ferrara is under no illusions and appreciates he is down the pecking order for ice time when compared with the more experienced British players and imports on the Steelers’ roster.
But he has still made a noticeable impact in his first full season and is prepared to be patient for additional opportunities that are sure to come his way.
“I’m loving it here,” said Ferrara, part of the Steelers line-up last night that won 6-2 in the first match of a double-header weekend at title rivals Belfast Giants.
“You only have to think about one thing and that is playing hockey which is what I love to do.
“Peterborough is my home town and I’ve loved playing there.
“We had a good year last year, but essentially I want to be the best hockey player I can be and coming to Sheffield was obviously the next step so, in a way, that’s what made the decision easier for me because I know this is the route I have to take.”
For Ferrara, pushing hard for a first taste of action with the GB Men’s team at the World Championships in April, the biggest difference he noticed between the EIHL and the English Premier League, where he played with hometown club Peterborough Phantoms, was the speed of thought out on the ice.
“Playing in the EPL, you can probably get on the puck, take a look up and think about who you’re going to pass to or whatever,” he said.“In the Elite League, you almost have to know where you’re going to pass the puck and what you’re going to do with it before you get it on your stick,” he said.
“It’s probably about playing a lot more instinctively – you almost have to work out what your options are before you even get the puck.”
Ferrara is a big admirer of the more seasoned pros he finds himself playing alongside and admits he is like a sponge when it comes to taking on board advice from them.
His coach believes he has the potential to become one of the top British players in the game.
“For any other young kid wanting to make it at professional level, Luke is the one to look at,” said Thompson.
“He’s the first one on the ice and the last one off it and his whole approach to being a professional ice hockey player is top-notch.
“I’m delighted with his progress. He’s got a great work ethic, of course, but he’s got a nice touch and has a good hockey brain. He sees the ice well and is a British player who will put up good numbers down the line and throughout his career as he works his way up and up,” he added. “He has come a long way very, very quickly.”
Steelers goalscorers last night were Mathieu Roy (2), Tyler Mosienko (2), Jeff Legue and Ben O’Connor.