It’s midnight before the 12th annual Can-Am Pond Hockey Tournament, and The Moose Slayers, clad in unlikely uniforms of green plaid shirts, grab their hockey gear and head out to the pond in Lake Placid, New York.
It has been more than a decade since Marcelo Ferreira and his friends graduated from the University of Delaware, but the six college buddies still gear up every year and hit the ice. “We’re scattered throughout the country, but we get together once a year for a pond hockey tournament,” Ferreira said.
If hockey is a metaphor for life (and try telling a hockey player it isn’t), then Ferreira’s passions are perfectly aligned. As a Denver Water emergency management specialist, he teaches employees how to anticipate potential problems and work together to get their jobs done, even in difficult or emergency situations, like rain storms, wildfires and extreme flooding, all of which were factors in a recent emergency exercise that Ferreira set up for more than 70 experts from Denver Water and local, state and federal agencies.
Ferreira will tell you those skills are equally suited to pond hockey, which is played with four-person teams — and no goalie. Skating on pond ice is very different from the smooth, groomed ice of indoor rinks. There can be massive cracks in the ice, which can make skating, and even passing, a challenge.
“You need systems in place and strategies for positioning since there’s no goalie. You have to always be thinking ahead to what their next move might be,” he said.
Hockey has been a part of Ferreira’s life since he moved from Brazil to Canada at age 4. “That’s how they do it up there,” Ferreira said. “As soon as you can walk, they throw skates on you; it’s just part of everyday life in Canada.”
He grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada and cheering for the Toronto Maple Leafs, always admiring the tenacity of former Leafs player Doug Gilmore. “He’d just grind it out and get it done — nothing fancy. I’d like to think that’s my style of hockey.”
Ferreira worked at an ice rink in college, where the best part of his job was driving the Zamboni, which he equates to a Zen garden experience. “I’d go out and make the ice nice and smooth, then people would skate around and tear it up.
“An hour later, I’d head out and smooth it all out again and bring it back to perfection. I really enjoyed it. In fact, if it paid more, I’d probably still be doing it,” he joked.
When he wasn’t sliding around the ice on the Zamboni, Ferreira was teaching young hockey players. “Coaching taught me a lot about customizing my teaching methods to the individual and how to leverage the skills and resources of the players to make the team successful.”
The Moose Slayers have their eyes on their next tournament, which will likely be in Minnesota, where they will face some tough competition in their quest for the coveted Golden Shovel. “You can definitely tell many of those guys spend lots of time on the ice. Not to mention, we sign up for the 21-and-up category, which is the most competitive,” he said.
“Technically, we’re all old enough to play in the 30-and-up category. We’re slowly realizing our age, even though we don’t want to admit it yet.”