SIOUX CITY | Cut four times from the squad he grew up watching at the old Sioux City Auditorium, Brady Ferner is making the most of his opportunity as the captain of the Sioux City Musketeers.
When he finally made the Musketeers as an emergency defenseman two weeks before Christmas 2015, the Dakota Dunes native watched captain Ryan Zuhlsdorf, who shared the same position. Later that season when Zuhlsdorf was traded to Dubuque, Ferner began to study Zuhlsdorf’s replacement, defenseman Jacob Wilson.
“First and foremost, you look at a captain and he has to be a high-character guy that comes with a good attitude every single day,” said Ferner. “Every day, those guys had hearts of lions. They are true competitors. They are there for their teammates. I don’t think it is necessarily the position, but more the type of person.”
Musketeers Coach Luke Strand predicts Ferner will be the captain at RPI (Rensselaer Polytech Institute) by the time he’s a junior. Strand sees how the 5-foot-11, 190-pound blue-liner, a 2 ½-year veteran with season totals of two goals and 16 assists, sets examples to teammates with his steady, hard, yet simple play on the ice and his locker room leadership skills.
Ferner said it’s a privilege and an honor to wear the ‘C’ that appears on the left shoulder of his jersey. He showed it last Friday when he and Tri-City captain Tyler Madden stood near the booth where an apparent first-period goal from Musketeers’ alternate captain Sampo Ranta was disputed, reviewed and quickly called good. He displayed it a night later when he and Des Moines’ Marshall Rifai exchanged fists.
“Being on last year’s (Anderson Cup and Clark Cup Playoff runner-up) team, I’ve been around a lot of great coaches and around a lot of great leaders and a lot of great teammates,” said Ferner. “It means a lot to me. I take a lot of great pride in it. It comes with a lot of responsibility, but it’s an honor and a privilege. It’s hard to put into words. I try to be a natural leader. I try to be myself and be there for my teammates.”
“He wears our uniform for his family and this community which is a special attribute he can carry because he’s from here,” said Strand. “His skating has improved. His strength ... Man, he is a beast in the gym. He works hard. I like his attitude. He doesn’t cheat the community. He doesn’t cheat his work ethic, he doesn’t cheat his teammates. That for us, makes him very accepted as a captain, which is great. But he goes so much farther than just leading by example.”
Ferner’s improvement comes through maturity, according to Strand, who describes him as a great two-way defenseman who makes offense happen the way he distributes pucks. Strand adds that Ferner is energetic, he has hard-playing tendencies and rarely finds himself out of position.
Ferner said instinct carries him through difficult situations. Playing alongside alternate captain Nate Knoepke, a 6-3, 202-pound brute with 11 assists, the two regularly challenge opposing forwards.
“One of my strengths is my skating,” said Ferner. “I try to use that to my advantage. I try to play very simple. I try to have a good first pass, stick to defense first, then I use my skating, my brain and my instinct. Then, I read and react. I try to get pucks to the net. When I’m doing that, I’m at my best.”
Ferner took a hard first-period shot in last Friday’s 5-2 win over Tri-City and later assisted on Ranta’s third-period goal. He picked up his sixth power-play assist of the season the following night on Ranta’s third-period goal in a 5-1 win over Des Moines.
There’s yet another admirer who’s behind the scenes. It's Dylan Ferner, the captain's younger brother.
Dylan, a 17-old Dakota Valley High School junior, is in his second year as the Musketeers’ assistant equipment manager. Strand also calls the younger Ferner a motivating leader.
“Every day (Dylan) has the best spirit in the world,” said Strand. “He brings people together. He makes people think a positive thought and he wears our Musketeers colors on his sleeve every single day. He takes hockey personal because one, he loves the game and has so much passion for the game and for the guys in the locker room. Two, he’s a big fan of his brother as he should be. They’re a really tight group.”
“It makes the experience here that much sweeter, being able to share the whole thing with Dylan and the team taking him in as part of the team,” said Ferner. “It gives him something to look forward to and it gives him a sense of pride. He loves doing it. It gives him a lot of happiness. It’s good to see that. It’s grown our bond that much stronger. It’s hard to put into words how special it is.”