Sharks defenseman Mario Ferraro was living a double existence this past summer, back home in Ontario, Canada.
For example: There were days he would head to the outdoor neighborhood dry rink to handle the puck and get some shots off.
Did the local kids there know they were in the presence of an NHL player?
“Honestly, not really,” Ferraro said. “They’d find out I play for the Sharks, and whatever. I’d sign a couple pucks, and this and that.”
“Most of the time there were other kids playing on the rink too and watching. Some of them would come up and ask me, 'What do you play, men’s league?' ”
As Ferraro pointed out, geography played a large part in his anonymity.
Around Toronto, if you’re not playing for the Maple Leafs, “you’re kind of irrelevant.”
But the other side is this: Ferraro is so relevant, he was invited to be a houseguest of new Toronto Maple Leaf Joe Thornton this summer.
“I can’t thank him enough for all that he did for me as a young guy coming into the league,” Ferraro said. “He really showed me the ropes. And he took care of me, was like a dad to me.”
Which isn’t far-fetched between the 41-year-old Thornton and 22-year-old Ferraro.
“He always said that I’m closer to his son’s age than I am his,” Ferraro said.
So what is a week on the farm with a future Hall of Famer like?
“Buzz. Absolute buzz, that’s what I can tell you,” Ferraro said. “Nonstop. Go go go. Full of training, working out, ATV everything. You’re not sitting still over there, you’re always on the move. It’s a buzz.”
Ferraro has never masked his admiration for Thornton, and knows his departure from the Sharks hasn’t fully been realized yet.
“I don’t think it really has sunk in,” Ferraro said. “Having a guy like that around you everyday, around the rink is really special and beneficial for your team.
“We’re going to miss him for sure, and I don’t think it’s going to sink in until all the boys are back together and we’re missing that big bearded man.”