On this week’s episode of New England Hockey Journal’s RinkWise podcast, Kirk Luedeke is joined by Bobby Farnham.
Farnham, who hails North Andover, Mass., played prep hockey at Brooks School and Phillips Andover Academy before playing four seasons at Brown. He went on to play eight seasons in the professional realm, including three years and 67 games in the NHL with Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Montreal.
Now retired, following his final active season in Belfast, Ireland, Farnham, 32, serves as the Director of Player Development and Business Strategy for Global Hockey Consultants.
The former pro forward joined Luedeke to discuss a number of topics, from his journey to the NHL to the importance of developing good habits, being a mentor for young players in his post-playing career and more.
Although he grew up in a football family of wide receivers, Farnham began skating at the age of 3, just a mile down the road from his house at Brooks.
He got his start on his town team before playing for the Valley Junior Warriors and Top Gun. When it came time for prep school, he enrolled at Brooks, which was Division 2 at the time. He knew it was his best opportunity to play and used it as a chance to make the jump up to D-1.
After scoring just one goal in 28 games as a freshman, Farnham exploded in his sophomore season at Brooks, scoring 37 goals for 59 points in a 26-game span.
More important than finding his scoring touch, Farnham said, were the lessons instilled in him by then-Brooks head coach Brian Daccord, a former NHL goalie coach and owner of Stop It Goaltending.
“Habits,” Farnham told Luedeke regarding the importance of playing under Daccord. “Habits from an early age were great for me. It could be something as small as you’re in the middle of a drill and you lose the puck; instead of grabbing a new puck right off the sideboard, you stop, you go back and you get it. That was something Brian Daccord did and cemented in our heads at that prep school. To this day, I could never take another puck.
“He was tough in the right way,” he continued. “He got a lot out of his players. I was one of the leading scorers on the team and he benched me for the last eight minutes of a game for taking a penalty, and I still remember that. He cemented a lot of things in my head from an early age that I took with me as I went to Phillips Andover, where I had the opportunity to play for another amazing guy in Dean Boylan (Milton, Mass.).”
Once again, after totaling just eight points in 25 games as a junior, Farnham was a different player in year two, posting 46 points in 27 games as a senior captain.
Although he went straight to Brown after four years in the prep realm, Farham stressed the importance of everyone having their own path and that having a college commitment on Aug. 1 of your junior year is not the be-all, end-all.
“I’m a big believer that your path is your path. I needed four years of college hockey to be a pro hockey player. Some guys might not need that and can hop out of one of these bigger schools and go play pro. They might be ready for it. I’ve (also) seen kids, who don’t have a college offer, go into their over-age in junior and light it up for the first 10 games and all of a sudden every single school is knocking down their door.”
In general, “feel it out and see where you’re at,” Farnham advises players, “but don’t push the envelope and don’t panic. It’s important not to panic. Not everyone has to follow a cookie-cutter path.”
After four years, 129 games and 54 points at Brown, Farnham jumped into his pro career, which began with two seasons in the AHL. After a brief stint in the ECHL, he made his NHL debut with the Penguins in 2014-15. He played his most single-season NHL games (50) with the Devils the year after.
Now retired, Farnham is hoping to guide the next generation of young hockey players as they look to navigate the same path he took 15 years ago, playing prep hockey from 2004-08.
“From a standpoint of development and having a relationship with the younger players, I’ve lived and breathed the whole thing. I’ve been through it all and I think I can give an invaluable insight but in a very genuine, honest way,” he said.
“I think a lot of times these younger players need to hear it from me like, ‘Hey, it’s OK. I didn’t make a festival team and I got to play in the NHL.’ Not everything is going to go your way but hear it from me, because it didn’t go my way every time either and it worked out. If guys can hear that from me and I can help with that and keep them channeled on that path, then that’s very rewarding for me and what I do.”
For more from Bobby Farnham on his local roots, professional playing career and what it takes to make it in the game, check out the full RinkWise podcast today.
The episode, as well as previous episodes, can be accessed on major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and online at hockeyjournal.com/podcast. Podcasts are typically dropped every Friday morning.