Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

He's Got Ice in His Veins; Ferlin, a One-Time Bolles QB, Loves Hockey and Makes Fast Rise to NHL's Bruins

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

He's Got Ice in His Veins; Ferlin, a One-Time Bolles QB, Loves Hockey and Makes Fast Rise to NHL's Bruins

Article excerpt

Byline: Gene Frenette

From the time Mark Ferlin bought his only son, Brian, his first pair of ice skates and hockey equipment for Christmas in 1995, the 3-year-old kid was hooked. While growing up in Jacksonville and playing five different sports, once being an eighth-grade starting quarterback at The Bolles School, hockey remained Brian's greatest passion.

"Hockey was always my favorite sport," Brian said. "If it was up to me, I might have focused on it more when I was younger. My dad encouraged me to play a little bit of everything because it helps you to realize what you really want to play."

But in his wildest fantasy during those wonder years, Brian and his family never imagined it would lead to the present-day reality: wearing No. 68 for the Boston Bruins, one of the most storied franchises in NHL history.

"A lot of little things had to go right for me along the way," Brian said.

"I always thought [Brian] had a shot to play in college," Mark added. "I was mainly interested in him parlaying hockey into a good education."

Well, not only did Brian get three years of an Ivy League education at Cornell, the 22-year-old right winger needed just five months of grooming in the minor leagues before ascending to hockey's top level.

Last week, Ferlin became only the fifth Florida-born player to reach the NHL when the Bruins called him up from their Providence affiliate in the American Hockey League. He's played a combined 36:23 in four games since the promotion, opening some eyes Sunday when Ferlin set up Gregory Campbell's goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in a 6-2 victory that snapped the Bruins' six-game losing streak.

Ferlin's journey from Jacksonville - playing on an assortment of travel teams like the Everblades and Ice Dogs, then moving to Indianapolis for his last two years of high school - to wearing the same jersey as hockey greats Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito might be the most odds-defying path any First Coast athlete has taken into a major pro team sport.

No player has ever spent nearly all of his formative school years in warm-weather Florida and made it to the NHL. Ferlin's mother, Sherry, who traveled to St. Louis and Chicago for Brian's first two games, is still pinching herself over how Brian's hockey story unfolded.

"That first game against the St. Louis Blues was surreal," Sherry said. "Sometimes, it felt like just another game. Other times, you thought 'Oh, wow! This is what he worked his whole life for.' When he got an assist [in Chicago] on that goal, it was really exciting, just a fabulous day."

It's impossible to know how Ferlin's NHL ride will play out, but the trip to this destination has already been a conversation-starter among his Bruins teammates. How did a kid growing up in sunshine, and with limited skate time until age 17, climb his way on to hockey's biggest stage?

"To accomplish what Brian did is amazing," said Kent Hughes, Ferlin's agent with M5 Sports. "He didn't even get drafted the first time he was eligible [in 2010]. This is a testament to his perseverance and how quickly he developed. It's a remarkable story."

LEAVING FAMILY NEST

When Brian was six weeks old, the family moved to Greensboro, N.C., after Mark - a former starting first baseman at Jacksonville University - took an insurance job with Prudential. The company transferred Mark back to Jacksonville for good in 1997, and their kids pursued various athletic interests.

Daughter Alyssa, now attending Florida State, eventually burned out on softball. Lea, a sophomore at Bolles, scored 31 goals this season and led her soccer team to the Class 2A state title. Lea's Jacksonville FC travel team captured a 15-under national championship, and she's being heavily recruited by colleges.

Brian was juggling multiple sports when his hockey career took shape after a devastating knee injury, tearing an anterior cruciate ligament during his final lacrosse practice in eighth grade. …

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