James Ferrara is not the sort of sportsman who seeks the limelight, but the Peterborough Phantoms captain will deservedly be the centre of attention on Saturday night.
Long-serving and hugely-respected Ferrara has been rewarded for his extensive and impressive contribution to the city club with a testimonial at Planet Ice.
Born to parents who were avid watchers of the sport, it became clear that Ferrara’s future lied on the ice rather than outside the plexi-glass after he first picked up a stick and laced skates at the age of five.
Now 30, Ferrara has starred for his hometown club in 13 different seasons – a magnificent stretch interrupted only by a successful stint at the highest level with Nottingham Panthers.
He enjoyed success while in Panthers colours, but arguably his finest moment came when leading Phantoms to English Premier League play-offs glory back in 2015. It’s a triumph he cherishes, not least of all because younger siblings Robert and Luke were part of the same team.
“My parents were big ice hockey fans and that’s how I came to see the sport,” said Ferrara. “I soon started training and playing, and my brothers followed suit. My mum later re-married to Stevie Johnson so we had our step-dad playing and then coaching as well.
“It was wonderful for us to all be able to play together at senior level for Phantoms for a couple of seasons. Winning the play-offs was a great way to finish that chapter.
“To lift that trophy as captain, and to have my brothers in the same team, is the biggest highlight of my career.
“I missed the Phantoms treble in 2009 as I was playing in Nottingham at that point. I won the play-offs and the Challenge Cup during my time there and it was brilliant to be part of that success at the highest level.
“I moved to Nottingham when I was 18 and it was great to get a lot of ice time for two years at such an early stage of my career.
“In my third year I was moved to defence for the first time. I was still being used as a forward as well and struggled for consistency.
“I was released the year after that but I have no regrets. I had a few offers from clubs in the Elite League, but I’d been at university and had spent a lot of time away from home.
“Phantoms had started slowly that season and were looking to make changes so it was the best fit for me and the team to come home . . . and I’ve been here ever since!
“I’m really pleased with what I’ve achieved in the game. I’ve managed to win trophies with both my clubs and I feel I’ve fulfilled my potential while balancing ice hockey with other factors in my life such as university and career.”
Ferrara passed the 500-appearance milestone for Phantoms during last season. He has also racked up more than a century of goals for the club.
But there is more to him than statistics. He’s a fine leader on and off the ice. In short, he is one of Peterborough hockey’s finest servants.
“Talent alone is never enough in sport,” added Ferrara. “I played with a hell of a lot of good junior players who never went on to enjoy senior careers.
“It’s important to be a good person and be professional with it, and those are things I’ve always tried to concentrate on.
“I’m not really an emotional sort of person, but I’m sure I’ll be feeling very happy and very proud on Saturday.
“I don’t really like being the centre of attention, so I have to thank ‘Padi’ (Phantoms import Ales Padelek, who has designed the shirts which will be worn on Saturday as part of his role for the HockeyDog company) for coming up with the idea of me playing in a gold shirt!”
THE JAMES FERRARA TESTIMONIAL PROGRAMME
Captain: Jon Cotton.
Assistant captains: Robert Ferrara, Luke Ferrara.
Roster: Stevie Johnson, Darius Pliskauskas, Tom Carlon, Chris Allen, James Hutchinson, Julian Smith, Leigh Jamieson, Clint Herring, James White, Tom Norton, Warren Tait.
Netminders: Damien King, Dan Lane.
Coach: Slava Koulikov.
Captain: Marc Levers.
Assistant captains: Robert Dowd, Craig Britton.
Roster: Shaun Yardley, Greg Pick, Joe Miller, Lewis Hook, Nathan Long, James Morgan, Ken Bavin, Nathan Pollard, Ben Russell, Michael Farn.
Netminders: Janis Auzins, James Moore.
Coach: Jon Kynaston.
Captain: David Clarke.
Assistant captains: Steve Lee, Rob Lachowicz.
Roster: Steve Maile, James Neil, Jason Buckman, Nick Compton, Connor Stokes, Lloyd Gibson, Owen Griffiths, Glenn Billing, Connor Pollard, Jesse Hammill.
Netminders: Adam Long, Jack Peacock.
Coach: Adam Goodridge.
Captain: Dwayne Newman.
Assistant captains: Ben O’Connor, Craig Peacock.
Roster: Kevin King, James Ellwood, Nathan Salem, Will Weldon, Ed Knaggs, Edgars Bebris, Ales Padelek, Andy Munrow, Scott Robson, Brad Moore, James Spurr.
Netminders: Euan King, Stephen Wall.
Coach: Tim Peacock.
n Testimonial man James Ferrara will feature for and against all teams.
All four teams will do battle in a round-robin series.
Games last for 15 minutes and feature four-on-four play.
Winning team earns three points – one point for a draw.
Each team will be involved in two penalty shoot-outs which carry bonus points.
Teams will hit the ice at 5pm for a warm-up ahead of team announcements from 5.10pm.
The first action will take place at 5.25pm with the event scheduled to finish around 7.45pm.
Tickets cost £10 for adults, £8 for concessions and £5 for children aged five to 16. A family ticket (two adults and two children) is available for £25.
The shirts of each team captain, the two assistant captains and that of Ferrara will be auctioned on the night after the game.
Other players’ shirts have been auctioned online. Some are still available for purchase and anyone interested can make contact with the event organisers through the @JF17 Testimonial account on Twitter.
Ferrara is also staging a pre-testimonial meet and greet tomorrow night (Friday) at the Legends Bar inside Planet Ice (7pm start).
Entry for the event, organised by supporters’ group Phanforce, is by way of a small donation.