On June 12, the St. Louis Blues made history. After being written off by many until the season’s mid-point, when they were last in the league, the team battled their way to the playoffs and ultimately earned their first championship in franchise history.
Sean Ferrell ’88, the Blues video coach who assists with skills development, also made history by becoming the first St. Louis native coach to win the Stanley Cup. An accomplished hockey player himself, Ferrell shares his gifts and talents with others beyond the Blues organization.
According to SLUH hockey coach Jack Behan, “Sean has volunteered to come each of our middle school camps the past two seasons. He spoke to the campers for an hour in each camp about hockey and also how SLUH shaped him into the man he is today. He has been a terrific advocate for the school.”
In celebration of Ferrell’s remarkable contributions to the St. Louis Blues – and in gratitude for his “man for others” spirit – we proudly share a Prep News article from 2017.
FROM THE PREP NEWS ARCHIVE
Ferrell ’88, from SLUH player to NHL coach, becomes first franchise coach from STL
By Will Farroll ’17 and Andrew Modder ‘17
January 13, 2017
Since graduating St. Louis U. High in 1988, Sean Ferrell, current St. Louis Blues video coach, has gone from playing competitive hockey, to working in corporate America, to living his dream as an NHL coach and the first Blues coach hailing from St. Louis.
Ferrell played competitive hockey when he was younger, including four years at the high school varsity level at SLUH and nearly three years in the North American Junior Hockey League with the St. Louis Jr. Blues.
Fifteen years ago, Ferrell’s coaching career began when he worked with his children’s youth hockey teams.
“I started to specialize in the coaching area of skill development,” said Ferrell, now in his fourth year working for the Blues as the video coach. “One of my strong suits was skating skills, so power skating, stride efficiency, speed, and the puck skills, stick skills, shooting skills all followed suit.”
In 2005, a group of Blues players, including defensemen Bryce Salvador and Barrett Jackman and forward Jamal Mayers, had been working at the Hockey Academy with the current head athletic trainer Ray Barile and former video coach Jamie Kompon.
“I was working in corporate America at the time, there weren’t many coaching jobs back then,” said Ferrell. “If you wanted to make a living as a coach you would be working for the St. Louis Blues, and I really hadn’t gotten to that point in my life where I had built the right skill set to be here.”
A friend reached out to Ferrell asking him to help out with defensemen at a youth hockey camp, a camp where Mayers and Salvador were also instructing. Ferrell’s coaching of professional players sprouted from his volunteering at this youth camp.
“(I) got a phone call from Bryce about two weeks later asking who I was, where I played, if I would be interested in doing something more extensive in the coaching area, and I made the decision to take the leap out of corporate America and start heading down the path of coaching professionally,” said Ferrell.
Ferrell began working with a small group of four or five NHL players, primarily dealing in the area of basic skill development in the offseason. He coached professionals who made St. Louis their home, and collegiate players like Cam Jansen and Pat Maroon, and eventually his group grew to 25 players.
“We do have other players who make St. Louis their home, they play for other teams, but in the summer it’s a developmental process,” said Ferrell. “We’re not sharing trade secrets but basically working one-on-one with people, and that’s been incredibly rewarding. If there are NHL players who make St. Louis their home, they’ll seek each other out or they’ll find me.”
The NHL had its most recent player lockout in the 2012-2013 season, which Ferrell described as the jumping off point for his career with the Blues. The lockout shortened the season to 48 games instead of 82, meaning players had about four months away from playing games.
Ten to 12 Blues players spent that time working with Ferrell in his skill development programs, and, through networking, Ferrell received a call from Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock offering him the position of head video coach for the team.
Ferrell’s work as the video coach is vital to the performance of the team on the ice, as he watches and analyzes opponents’ games several times in order to prepare the Blues for those teams. He also records every small detail in each Blues game, from the goals to the passes between players.
“The analytical side of the game is something I feel I have always been pretty good at, moreso now than ever before, but I think the other thing is that you’re constantly learning something,” said Ferrell. “To be able to wake up every day and walk into a building as part of a team with a common goal and still collectively with everyone else know you can learn more, it just keeps you thirsty for showing up every day.”
Through his analysis of all these games, Ferrell is able to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of the Blues’ opponents and how the team can defend or exploit them.
Ferrell values the team aspect behind all of the hard work he puts in, which continually motivates him to strive to move his way up the coaching ladder despite all of the sacrifices of travel and long periods of time away from family and friends throughout the nine months of the season.
“There’s a lot of sleepless weeks, but I think being part of a team is the most enjoyable thing. In business, you’re part of a team and you have goals that are usually more long-term, so there is an immediacy to success and failure, and I like that intensity,” said Ferrell.
Ferrell’s work does not stop once the NHL season ends, as he works extensively with Blues prospects, newly drafted players, junior players in both Canada and the United States, and the Chicago Wolves, the Blues’ American League affiliate.
“It’s basically a 12-month job, and some guys take the two and a half month break in the summer to go to seminars and become students of the game in every way they can, and then there’s guys who skate more. I skate almost every day in the summer with somebody,” said Ferrell.
As he continues to work for the Blues, Ferrell aspires to continue to climb the coaching ladder, and he feels supported in his journey when his players express interest in working with him long-term.
“I get asked if I ever think I will be a head coach, and I don’t know if that’s a goal. I think being an assistant coach (with) my skill set is better in one-on-one with players and their development,” said Ferrell. “It’s one of those things that you’re constantly seeking this affirmation of your work, like are you good, and though I think I’m good the guys coming back wanting to continue is the support I may need to take the next step.”
Cheers Heard Around the World: Chris Herzberg '89, Business Development Director at ITAGroup (Des Moines, Iowa), shows his St. Louis spirit on a recent trip to Machu Picchu. Like many alumni who travel frequently or reside outside St. Louis, Herzberg enjoyed the Blues' incredible playoff run. A recognizable SLUH name, Herzberg had three brothers who attended SLUH, including Matt '85, Dan '86 and Paul '95.