Q&A: Ray Ferraro on NHL Career, Broadcasting, Video Games, Trade Deadline

Ray Ferraro played 18 seasons in the NHL from 1984-2002 with the Whalers, Islanders, Rangers, Kings, Thrashers, and Blues. The Trail, British Columbia, native had 408 goals and 490 assists in 1,258 career games.

After stints with ESPN, NBC and Rogers Sportsnet, Ferraro is currently a game analyst for TSN. He has a podcast with fellow insider Darren Dreger and is also the color commentator for EA Sports NHL. 

Ferraro is married to former U.S. women’s hockey team captain and current Seattle Kraken scout Cammi Granato and they live in Vancouver.

Sports Section sat down with Ferraro to discuss his careers on and off the ice, his appearance in the 1976 Little League World Series, being the voice of a video game, his take on Monday’s NHL trade deadline and much more.

SPORTS SECTION: You played 18 years in the NHL. What was the key to your longevity?

FERRARO: One, you’ve got to be productive enough that they keep asking you back, you know? A lot of times people will say, “Oh, so-and-so played 1,000 games or 700 games,” but you don’t just get to show up. You’ve got to bring something to the table so that they keep asking you back because there are a hell of a lot of good players that are always coming along.

Two, you’ve got to be healthy. For the first 11 years of my career I didn’t really miss any games. I battled knee problems from that point on, but you have to be healthy, and some of it is luck. You’ve got to have an opportunity to show up. You can work as hard as you can, but if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time all the time, you never get started.

Did you envision becoming a broadcaster when you retired?

I thought I would get into coaching or management. I love the game. I love breaking it down. I love evaluating players. I love looking at systems, and I thought that was going to be what I would go into. 

I just couldn’t get on that treadmill of coaching. If you’re good, you move to a new place, and if you’re good there, you move again. I had boys that were 13 and 10 at the time, and I just couldn’t step into it. 

I had been broadcasting for eight years [Ferraro started while still playing with the Kings], and I thought, “Well, I’m not doing anything else now, and I still have always wanted to be involved with a team.” I’m at a point now where I’m super-content and love what I’m doing.

It wasn’t always hockey for you growing up, was it? I know you played (second base) in the 1976 Little League World Series.

I lived in a very small town in Southeastern British Columbia, Trail, and five times that town went and represented Canada at the World Series.

We had a coach, a mentor, in Andy Bilesky, and he coached all of those teams. I was on that team in ’76, and it remains one of the highlights of my life to this day. You’re 11 years old, and you’re playing in the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania. I’d never been on a plane before; I’d never traveled anywhere. It was amazing.

Did you ever want to be a pro baseball player growing up?

Always hockey, but I loved baseball equally. I just love baseball. I’m excited for the season, but it sure looks like it’s going to be a long year for the Red Sox. 

When I became a Red Sox fan in 1975, Jim Rice and Fred Lynn were rookies that year, and they went to the World Series. In ’86 I thought they were going to win, but it took to 2004. It was a long time to get to cheer the last out of the season and it looks like it’s going to be a long time before I get to do that again.

Who did you look up to when you were a young hockey player?

I always wanted to be Bobby Orr, and then I realized that wasn’t a thing. I was a Bruins fan growing up and I lived in Vancouver, so really two players. Rick Middleton was one of my favorites. I just loved the way that he played. I’m not sure why he’s not in the Hall of Fame. He was good, a nifty, slick player. 

And I loved Thomas Gradin. He was such a good passer. I always wanted to have that in my game. I was more of a goal-scorer than a passer, but I loved the way that Gradin could play. Maybe a little offbeat, but those were my guys.

Any regrets from your career other than not winning a Cup?

My regret is that I didn’t enjoy the game more. I didn’t enjoy being around the rink more. When I had a bad day, everybody knew it, and I regret that I didn’t enjoy those days more. If I were counseling today’s players, I would say, “I know there are days when this job sucks and I know there are days when nothing goes right for you, but try and find something to enjoy, because you’re never going to find anything like it.”

You’re one of the voices of EA Sports NHL. How did that come about?

It was something that came kind of out of the blue. The recording studios are in Burnaby, British Columbia.

They asked if I would come in and do a little bit, so I did. Eddie Olczyk and Doc Emrick were doing their recording from Chicago, and I was the third voice. And then they transitioned and wanted to change the way the game was recorded, and it was going to require far many more hours of recording.

I had no idea what went into this. I thought you would go in and there would be video playing, you would just record over the top of the video. But it’s none of that. Anything that’s in the game with my voice on it, I created. They give me a scenario, and then you have to make up a bunch of stuff.

It’s a remarkable product. I’m really proud to be part of it. But for the last year and a bit, I record from my closet. We can’t go into the studios, so I have this elaborate setup that when I go to get a shirt out of the closet, I have to be careful that I don’t knock rather expensive recording stuff out of my closet.

You’re one of the sport’s all-time great storytellers. Got a good one you can share?

I’ll give you two. The first: I’m playing for St. Louis right at the end of my career and there’s a scuffle around the Detroit net. Jiri Fischer has got me around the neck and pinned against the back of the net.

Now, Jiri is a giant of a man, and I’m not getting out of this unless he decides I can get out of it. So as I’m kind of scrambling around, Steve Yzerman skates past and says, “Hey, why don’t you analyze that, Ray?” It was not funny, but it was so funny.

My favorite as a broadcaster is when I was between the benches and there was a scuffle on the ice. Steve Ott popped somebody in the nose pretty good. He then skated out of the scuffle, and as he headed to the St. Louis bench, he skated by the other team and, without slowing down said, “Don’t worry, guys, I know you all want to punch him in the face, so I just did it for you.” I thought that was awesome. Everybody got a pretty good giggle out of that.

Do you and Cammi talk hockey around the dinner table or avoid shop talk?

Lots. We always have, but now that she’s scouting for Seattle we talk even more. Although attempting to get information from her is just pointless. If I walk into her office, the computer screen gets closed. I have no idea, and I’d like to have an idea, but I don’t. 

We debate players all the time. She is very, very good at what she does. She’ll pick out things, and we’ll be talking and she’ll go, “Yeah, but what about this?” It’s great for me to sit and bounce hockey stuff off of my wife and have her best me at it a lot of the time.

The NHL trade deadline is Monday. You were dealt a few times in your career. What were your experiences with being traded?

You get disappointed when you get traded. When I got traded from the Rangers to LA, I was really disappointed because I had just signed with New York. I wanted to be there, and they said, “Nope, too bad, go to LA.” The lack of control is really difficult to deal with, but you have to, that’s your job. 

Tiger Williams gave me a great piece of advice, and I think I would give it to anybody that gets traded today. Tiger got traded from LA to Hartford right at the end of his career, and he said to me, “The difference this year is [that] the jersey I wear is just a different color. Love the game, don’t just love the team you’re playing for.”

I thought that was pretty good advice, because if you don’t have the enthusiasm and the love for the game, your play is going to suffer. You have no control over anything else. You get traded, you get traded. Pack up and go to the next place. Unfortunately, it’s not a business for loyalty in almost all cases, or for longevity in one spot. That’s just not the way it works.

Do you expect many more big deals at the trade deadline?

I don’t. I think the complications this year are just going to be too great. Trading over the border from the U.S. to Canada is going to be difficult, even with the seven-day quarantine. The flat cap is just going to clobber mostly everything. 

I think there will be a dozen trades or so. I don’t know how many owners are going to give their GMs the green light to go spend more money when revenues probably aren’t going to be a thing until next year.

Who wins the Stanley Cup this season?

I picked Tampa at the start of the year, acknowledging that repeating is just so difficult. They’re such a good team, and they don’t have Nikita Kucherov yet, so I’m going to stay there. 

I’m interested in what’s going on out West. I think Vegas is a really good team. However, it’s really hard to tell because nobody plays anybody else. They keep playing the same six or seven or eight teams. 

I look at the one division, and Carolina looks really good and Florida looks fantastic this year — one of the biggest surprises — but they keep playing each other. They keep beating up on the bottom side of their division. 

Until they start playing each other, how do you know? I’m going to stay with Tampa just for that reason.

Chris Kuc is a sportswriter who covered a myriad of sports during his career with the Chicago Tribune, The Athletic and the Chicago Blackhawks before joining Sports Section. You can reach out to Chris at Chris.Kuc@thesportssection.com or on Twitter: @ChrisKuc.