NHL superstars Patrick Kane and Johnny Gaudreau have already done Luke Ferrara a big favour this year – but he is not expecting any further help when he comes face to face with them at the world championships.
The USA forwards both enjoyed outstanding campaigns for their respective teams during 2018-19, Kane posting a career-best 110 points, including 44 goals, for Chicago Blackhawks, while fellow forward Gaudreau registered 36 goals in a 99-point haul for Calgary Flames before suffering a first-round play-off exit.
Their exploits enabled former Sheffield Steelers’ winger Ferrara to win his NHL Fantasy League, although the 25-year-old will be doing his upmost to stop them continuing their scoring streaks when Great Britain faces off against the USA next Wednesday in Kosice.
In a group that also contains other heavyweight nations such as Canada, Finland and Germany, it promises to be a tough few days in Slovakia for Ferrara and his team-mates on their return to the top tier of international hockey for the first time in 25 years.
Ferrara, now plying his trade with Coventry Blaze after being released by the Steelers in 2017, made his world championship debut for GB during last year’s memorable gold-medal promotion campaign in Hungary, but acknowledges the scale of the task in front of Pete Russell’s team this time around is far greater.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more last year,” said Peterborough-born Ferrara. “The Sunday before the tournament started I didn’t even know if I was in the team, then the period that followed was all a bit of a blur and, before I knew it, I was back home with a gold medal.
“This year, the line-ups and teams we’re going to be playing against are another dream come true. I’ve got a Fantasy League team with Patrick Kane and Johnny Gaudreau on and they helped me win it, now I’m going to be playing against them in a few days – it’s a bit crazy when you think about it.”
While it may be understandable for the British players to be in awe of some of the stellar names they will come up against in the next couple of weeks, Ferrara insists there will be no star-truck approach on the ice once the first puck drops in each game.
“You have to approach it the same way you approach any game, which is easier said than done but, at the end of the day, they are the opposition and we have to play the best we can and focus for a whole 60 minutes,” insisted Ferrara, who started his career with hometown team Peterborough Phantoms before switching to the Steelers on a permanent basis in 2015.
“You never say never. You go back to last year and look at Slovenia, who, like Germany, had also done really well in the Olympics and they had a lot of the same players in Budapest - but we were able to beat them 3-1 in the opening game. Everybody knows how strong the other teams are and nobody is giving us a chance, but we’ve just got to make sure we go there, work hard and see what we can achieve this time around.”
Although it hurt to be released by the Steelers after three seasons of progression, Ferrara now admits his switch to Coventry has proved to be the best thing for his career, his senior call-up coming after his move to the SkyDome Arena.
“Initially it was just disappointing to leave because I got close to a lot of people at Sheffield and thought I was going to progress through the ranks,” he added. “But I think maybe it has been a blessing in disguise. That is partly down to the amount of opportunities I’ve had to play in different situations at Coventry.
“It doesn’t matter how many hours you put in during practice, if you never get a chance to do it in a game you are never going to develop.”
I’ve got a Fantasy League team with Patrick Kane and Johnny Gaudreau on and they helped me win it, now I’m going to be playing against them in a few days – it’s a bit crazy when you think about it.Luke Ferrara