Former Steamboat youth hockey player is seeing playing career come full circle | SteamboatToday.com

Former Steamboat youth hockey player is seeing playing career come full circle

Ben Ingersoll

Former Steamboat Springs youth hockey player Andrew Farny has played the game since he was a little kid, smacking around ice chunks on an iced-over pond in Telluride. These days, Farny is a defenseman in the British Columbia Hockey League and will be an Air Force Falcon next winter.

— It was simply by chance that Steamboat Springs resident Mike Farny sat next to a complete stranger years ago while visiting the Minnesota high school state hockey championships, and that the complete stranger answered a question that would change Farny’s son Andrew’s life.

From the time he could barely skate, Andrew Farny fell in love with the game — the speed and the non-stop, ever-changing action captivated him. He and his brother learned how to play on a frozen pond outside the Farnys’ former home in Telluride.

The family moved to Steamboat Springs on a whim, a decision made after skiing a deep powder day on vacation. Andrew toyed with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Alpine program, but hockey was his thing. But would it be his future?

"By chance my dad sat next to that guy who was from a small town in northern Minnesota," Andrew explained. "He asked him, ‘If you have a son who wants to play hockey, where do you send him?’ The man said, ‘Shattuck-St. Mary’s.’"

An NHL pipeline

Shattuck-St. Mary’s is a private boarding school nestled about an hour south of Minneapolis, and it is far from unknown in the hockey world.

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National Hockey League superstars like Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Nathan MacKinnon are Shattuck-St. Mary’s alumni. It’s a prep school that focuses heavily on its academic prowess and builds leaders in extracurricular activities, such as hockey.

It’s also intensely competitive with its admissions. When Mike took Andrew to the school for a daylong interview and a tryout with the hockey squad, Andrew walked away thinking he didn’t have a chance.

Then he got the phone call.

"Somehow I got accepted," Andrew said, still speaking in disbelief. "I don’t know how. I was pretty lucky, to be honest."

Andrew was accepted, but he wasn’t exactly a shoo-in to be on Shattuck-St. Mary’s top team, the prep team. He started from the lowest rung on the Shattuck ladder, a fourth-line player on the bottom-level squad as an eighth-grader.

Eventually he worked his way up, making program leaps through his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons, but still no prep team spot. Entering his senior year on campus, he was given his final tryout to be on the top-tier lineup. He nailed the audition and became a Shattuck-St. Mary’s starter.

"I knew if I stuck to the path that I’d develop," Farny said. "The prep team was always my goal."

Andrew’s next step

Andrew Farny’s hockey career can be best described as a series of progressive jumps, from the icy Telluride pond to the Steamboat youth hockey leagues. Next came Shattuck-St. Mary’s and to his current gig as a British Columbia Hockey League elite defenseman.

During his senior year of high school, he was recruited to the BCHL, a junior hockey league that is much like the United States Hockey League, a step between high school and college levels. The junior leaguers aren’t paid, Farny explains, so they’re able to keep their college eligibility. The BCHL is full of 18- to 21-year-old players eyeing a chance to get picked up at the next level.

For the past two years, Farny has been adding to his already deep hockey resume as a defenseman for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. In two years, he’s gone from good to great in the BCHL and was recently named the league’s player of the week for a hat-trick performance, his first trifecta since his days as a Steamboat kid. He’s also the BCHL leader in defensemen scoring.

The 19-year-old has gotten noticed once again, this time by longtime Air Force Falcons coach Frank Serratore. Farny was offered scholarships by roughly 10 colleges to continue his hockey playing career, but the disciplined, structured format of the Air Force Academy is similar to what he experienced at Shattuck-St. Mary’s and the transition just felt right. He committed in December 2013 and will be on the Falcons’ ice next winter.

"At Air Force, the coach really showed interest in him," Andrew’s dad Mike said. "All his school is paid for at Air Force and he has a future after he graduates. He knew his next nine years are planned out for him."

Farny’s hockey career will come full circle at the end of this year when he dons the Air Force blue in Colorado Springs, where his grandparents live and a short drive from his brother, a CU student.

"It will be so exciting for us because hasn’t played in Colorado for a long time," Mike Farny said.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll