Rapid City Rush head coach Daniel Tetrault came back from the Minnesota Wild's development camp in St. Paul with a new edition to his staff.
The Rush announced Monday that Nello Ferrara will join Tetrault on the bench this season as the assistant coach.
"I’m super excited, we’re getting a top quality guy who played for the love of the game," Tetrault said. "He has a tremendous passion for the game, he does not accept losing and we’re on the same page. We have the same philosophy and we’ve been working the phones hard, he’s not afraid to work. He has a lot of contacts in the hockey world, and that helps with the recruiting process."
Ferrara, 41, has been working with Tetrault for the last month, including their time in Minnesota for the development camp, even though the team didn't make the announcement until Monday.
The Rush job will be the Chicago-native's first coaching job, which Tetrault said wasn't a concern of his when making the hire.
"When I found out Nello wanted to get into coaching, I didn’t care if he didn’t have coaching experience, I knew his character," he said. "I know his love for the game, he has a lot of contacts in the NHL world, he does a lot of camps with kids where he’s from in Chicago, I’m not worried about that one bit."
Ferrara said the youth coaching movement in Rapid City is a positive, and in a tough mountain division he said he hopes to help take down some of the established coaching names like Steve Martinson with the Allen Americans and Aaron Schneekloth of the Colorado Eagles.
"I have no anxiety, no stress about it. We’re coming into a new job, building it from scratch and we have two of the best teams in the league (in our division) every single year with coaches that are world-known in the hockey world. Steve Martinson and Aaron Schneekloth, those guys are champions," he said. "We want to take them out. We’re not going to fear them, we’re going to come at them and try to get them where it counts, quick."
As a veteran of minor league hockey for 10 seasons, Ferrara is a former teammate of Tetrault while they were both with the Port Huron Icehawks of the now-defunct IHL.
The former defenseman played 103 professional games in six different leagues that included stops with the ECHL's Kalamazoo Wings, Cincinnati Cyclones and Toledo Walleye.
"Hockey has been pumping in my blood for my whole life," Ferrara said. "I think that a lot of the components that add up to me wanting to get into coaching are because I spent so many games on the outside, watching in, being scratched or on waivers for three days and brought back in. Being in an organization for a matter of months and getting in a handful of games but in the meantime studying the game non-stop. I’ve seen a lot of stuff from the outside."
The Rush will be run by two former defensemen, which Tetrault said is a good thing for the direction of the team.
Tetrault has said at numerous points this season that he believes the Rush were pushed around on the ice last season. He said he thinks with two former tough guys on the bench that won't happen this season.
"I was an assistant last year and we got pushed around all the time, and guys accepted losing. I learned from that experience last year and I’m not going to bring in guys like that," he said. "The guys that are coming back, their jobs are on the line every day because we have guys coming in who are proven. We’re not going to accept losing anymore and if they aren’t willing to do what they’re told they’ll be out of here. There won’t be second or third chances like there was last year. We’re going to be honest and direct, and we share that same philosophy."
That expectation has filtered up to the Iowa Wild and Minnesota, according to Ferrara. He said the coaches were able to work with some of the players in the Minnesota system during the development camp and they understood the expectations if they find themselves in Rapid City.
"There are some players that know they’re most likely going to be coming down to us," he said. "They’re going to be coming in here knowing the intensity and work ethic we’re going to be expecting."
The change from player to coach is something Tetrault had to deal with last season, and now it will be Ferrara's turn. He last played in 2013-14 with the former Rush CHL rival Denver Cutthroats and the St. Charles Chill.
He said learning how to manage players and notice changes that need to be made will be the hardest part of the job, but he's ready for the challenge.
"One of the tougher things is going to be identifying ‘okay here is what’s wrong with our power play right now, how do we correct it and what kind of a drill are we going to do to correct it?" He said. "This guy is having a confidence issue, how do we correct it? That’s going to be the challenge of finding out what kind of a guy the guy is and what the best way is to help him get through it because at the end of the day, if one guy is having an issue the whole team is having an issue."
Ferrara was open about the fact that he never made it to the NHL level, but said at this point in his career there is no place he'd rather be than coaching in Rapid City.
"People for years thought I was crazy, going back non-stop and trying to get a place to play when you keep getting cut," he said. "I never made it to the National Hockey League, never made it to the American hockey league, never made a lot of money playing hockey but that wasn’t my agenda. My agenda was the game of hockey. Besides when I got married last summer, I’ve never been happier in my whole life."
The Rush's season starts Oct. 10 when the Allen Americans come to the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.