Finally, Jack Ferreira has made it to the back row at the NHL entry draft.
In 40 years in professional hockey, the 68-year-old Ferreira has wondered what it would be like to sit there. He's had friends and those he's mentored sit back there. But, until now, the special assistant for Los Angeles Kings has only been a visitor to the back row.
The back row is where the teams that have enjoyed successful seasons are situated for the annual draft. The back row only contains playoff teams, and the recently crowned Stanley Cup winner.
Of course, Ferreira and the Kings will gather at the ultimate draft table location at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh on Friday and Saturday. When you're looking at the stage, it's the table situated at the far right that is reserved for the champs.
"Finally in the back row," Ferreira said. "I've been up in the first and second rows, and finally I will be in the last row. I was talking with [New Jersey Devils superscout and three-time Stanley Cup winner] David Conte and he was kidding with me that he'll show me where the washrooms are because it's my first time back there."
Ferreira already has one Stanley Cup ring from his days as the director of pro scouting for the Montreal Canadiens. But that season,Ferreira departed early to become the Anaheim Ducks first general manager in March 1993.
"I remember the exact date," he recalled. "It was March 23, 1993. I watched almost every one of those playoff games on television beating, ironically, the Kings. This was different. I was there every night. We got up in each series 3-0 and won."
Ferreira, a former All-American goaltender at his hometown Providence College and assistant coach at Boston University, took his first pro job in 1972 with the New England Whalers of the old WHA. He held various roles as head scout, assistant coach and assistant GM in his five years in Hartford before joining the NHL Central Scouting Service.
Then, Cliff Fletcher and David Poile lured Ferreira to Calgary. With the Flames, Ferreira was responsible for scouring the U.S. College ranks. He unearthed some dandies in Joel Otto, Jamie Macoun and Joe Nieuwendyk.
If there is one person that Ferreira is looking forward to seeing this week at the draft it is Fletcher, now a consultant with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"I owe Cliff and David Poile a lot," Ferreira said. "If it wasn't for them I don't know where I would have ended up."
Besides stops in different roles with the Whalers, Flames, Canadiens, Rangers and Atlanta Thrashers, Ferreira has enjoyed stints as general manager for the Minnesota North Stars, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks.
He has mentored several young executives who went on to win Stanley Cups - like Bob Gainey, Craig Button and Les Jackson - and now another in Kings GM Dean Lombardi.
Lombardi and Ferreira also worked together in Minnesota and San Jose. Ferreira has admired Lombardi's innovative ways, especially the useof a player development staff to better cultivate prospects.
"I know what Dean puts into it and how he thinks things through," Ferreira said. "It isn't off the cuff. He has a reason for the things he does. He's so cerebral. He's always thought outside the envelope and come up with these ideas that you'd stop and think about it and say 'yeah, that's pretty good.'"
Ferreira also had a brainwave during the season that helped the Kings win their championship. He thought highly enough about the skill, size and skating ability of two farmhands, Dwight King and Jordan Nolan,and finally convinced Lombardi to promote the two youngsters in February. They played a big part in the Kings march to the title.
As the summer goes on, Ferreira and the Kings staff will each get their day with the Stanley Cup. Ferreira plans on taking it back home to Rhode Island to share the prized trophy with his wife Kathy, daughters Jennifer and Julie and sons Eric and Kent. But first, there will be the fulfillment of the draft this weekend.
For a scout or management team, there is nothing like attending the draft as Stanley Cup champions. So many peers from other teams will stop by to express their accolade, and Ferreira will be delighted for Mike Futa and the Kings scouting staff.
"At the draft, I always look around the table and Iknow how hard everyone there works," he said. "So I really feel good for them. All those nights away from home, all those drives through bad weather to get to games has finally paid off for them. I'm happy for them."
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