Arizona might not immediately evoke thoughts of ice and hockey, but Scott Ferris is working to change that perception.
Since his introduction to hockey as a child at a Phoenix Roadrunners game, Ferris has been impassioned with the game. He has spent more than 20 years teaching adults at Oceanside Ice Arena in Tempe, Arizona, directing first-time players and experienced teams alike. His hard work and dedication to hockey earned him the honor of being named this year’s USA Hockey Adult Hockey Player of the Year.
USA Hockey: Being named USA Hockey’s Adult Hockey Player of the Year is a pretty big honor. What was the first thing that went through your mind when you heard the news?
Scott Ferris: It was a surprise and completely out of the blue. When I was out in Colorado Springs (at Annual Congress) I was told I was nominated three or four times prior and didn’t know it. It was obviously a wonderful thing for me but it was also a tribute to the passion and love for hockey in Arizona. It showed all that we have done in Arizona to advance hockey in the desert.
USA Hockey: How have you seen hockey grow in Arizona?
Ferris: It’s been incredibly rewarding to see hockey come this far. From what I’ve seen – and I’ve been in Arizona since I was 3 years old – it has gone from just one little rink that served all of the area’s purposes, to 11-plus sheets just in Phoenix alone. There are people of all ages playing hockey. You’d be surprised to see certain families who might have previously been known as “baseball families” come out and just love the sport. Sometimes I chuckle when people think Arizona is a state that isn’t quite popular in hockey, but really it’s no longer a strange and exotic sport. It’s no longer an odd mystery here. People really do love hockey.
USA Hockey: The Adult Rookie Class for new and first-time players must help fulfill that hockey desire, right?
Ferris: From what I’ve seen, there are many adults who, for most of their lives, probably yearned to play hockey but never had an outlet to learn. They wanted to play but were afraid they were going to get thrown into the lion’s den with experienced players. We’ve made sure that doesn’t happen, and it’s proven effective. The past 20 years we’ve had a ridiculous amount of success with our adult rookie class. Year after year, it’s more players after more players and it’s all about how we approach them. We remind them that it’s natural to be a bit timid, but once they get on the ice, they become more comfortable and more confident with other new players. Right now we average 35 adults per week, so we must be doing something right.
USA Hockey: The success of your adult rookie class translated into the creation of the Adult D-League. How does that work?
Ferris: It’s been really great to have something like this league for new players. It’s kind of like in golf; everyone wants to get off of the driving range and onto the golf course. So let’s take our beginner players and create their very own league with the D-League. The cost is reasonable, the timing on Sundays is perfect for their families to come out, and they have all of the same things our more advanced teams do. Once they’ve learned the game a bit more they can challenge themselves and move up from the D-League to the C-League. Then they can move from the rookie class to the advanced class and further on down the graph as far as they want to go.
USA Hockey: Are new players ever intimidated by not knowing how to skate or having a lack of basic skills?
Ferris: The best thing about hockey players is that they don’t look down on newer players that aren’t skilled. There’s a certain respect that comes from anybody who tries to step foot onto the ice. What I’ve observed is an almost immediate bond. Experienced players give new players tips on the bench or afterwards when everyone is sitting around, shooting the breeze, they make sure to include everyone. That includes men and women, players of all ages. It doesn’t matter if it’s the woman coming out is in her 50s or 20s, or if a guy is in his 70s versus a young kid at 19. It seems that everybody is in it together. It’s really fun to watch.
USA Hockey: Any final words for adults looking to get into the game for the first time?
Ferris: Thanks to USA Hockey, Oceanside has 35 sets of brand-new equipment at our disposal. We can fit you up. We don’t put you in rental skates. Instead we have good-quality used skates donated by our players. We’ll get your stick custom cut so it’s right for you down to the inch. Every player then gets a 15-minute orientation before you go out. After that first day, you’re going to say, “I wish I would have done this six months ago. That was a great time. I wish I would have come out sooner.”