Big Rapids, Michigan is not exactly on the favorites list of tourism’s places to visit. The city is a rather small one when compared to the larger colleges and universities in the state. Yet, this community offers its residents year round attractions, including, being home to the Ferris State University Men’s Ice Hockey team, who currently sit in 4th place behind Miami (Ohio) in the CCHA. A brief bio on the school reveals it was founded in 1884 by a New England Educator, Nathan Ferris, who later served as Governor of Michigan and a US Senator. It was originally named Big Rapids Industrial School with an enrollment of 15 students. Today, it ranks among the top 20 in colleges in Michigan and has an enrollment of 13, 532.
The Men’s Ice Hockey team is also steeped in its own traditions and principles that the school was founded on. The program began in 1975 and spent four years in the NAIA before joining the CCHA and the NCAA as a full-time member in 1979. In the 2002-2003 season, Ferris State earned the distinction of being the nation’s first ever team to reach 30 wins in a season. It also the year it competed in the CCHA’s Super Six Championship tournament since 1993. The 2002-2003 season is arguably one of the most impressive seasons in the existence of the team’s hockey history since joining the NCAA Division I. Over the 42 games played, Ferris State ended the year with a 31-10-1 record, including their first CCHA Regular Season Championship title (22-5-1). Following with an at-large bid to the NCAA Championship Tournament where the Bulldogs trounced North Dakota, 5-2. The season came to an end when Minnesota defeated the Bulldogs 7-4 in the West Regional title game.
Currently, aside from their 4th place standings, Bulldogs Junior Goaltender Pat Nagle is ranked 9th in the NCAA for Goals Against Average (GAA), allowing only 2.13 per game and has a Save percentage of .923. Senior Casey Haines stands in seventh position in the NCAA statistics for Game Winning Goals with 5, while fellow Seinor Blair Riley has 2 short-handed goals for FSU.
Legendary Head Coach Bob Daniels, in his 19th year with Ferris State University, is the longest tenured of any coach in the FSU history. In 2003 he was awarded the American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) Coach of the year for the 2002-2003 season achievements. He is credited as being the winningest coach in FSU hockey history. His list of accomplishments over the more recent years are numerous, including; being named a finalist for the 2009-10 CCHA Coach of the Year Award. His team recorded a 21-13-6 overall record finishing in third place for the regular season and saw them ranked 15th in the national polls. Daniels was selected as one of the finalists for the 2007-2008 CCHA Coach of the Year Award, leading the Bulldogs to an 18-16-5 record. Ferris State finished in 5th place in the conference and appeared in the quarterfinal of the CCHA Tournament.
When asked about his experiences attributing to his success and the longevity he has had at Ferris State, Coach Daniels replied; “I attribute my success and longevity at Ferris State to an excellent relationship with a very supportive administration who strongly values the hockey program and all athletic programs. Moreover, I have been very fortunate to have Drew Famulak as our recruiting coordinator for 18 of the 19 years I have been head Coach.” It is that kind of dedication and commitment to his players that is not altogether that common among other college hockey programs, but exemplifies how Ferris State had continued to achieve productive seasons and milestones.
Coach Daniels summed up his relationship to the players who have donned the Bulldogs’ sweater by adding, “The coaching staff at Ferris enjoys a strong relationship with our past players that is strengthened by the fact that we have had a long period of continuity. This continuity allows for a closer relationship between players from different generations.” Coach went on to say, “Moreover, the fact that most of our players elect to remain at FSU for four years leads to a greater sense of loyalty to the program and teammates.”
In the era of short lived coaching careers, professional or college level, Bob Daniels is an immortal icon. Daniels will, no doubt, be forever intertwined with Ferris State and Ferris with Bob and his family. For college hockey, coaches who build this kind of program and leave an edible mark on young people as he has, are more than just “the hockey coach”, they become an institution. Like coaches “Bo” Schembechler and Woody Hayes, Coach Daniels has achieved his place among honored men.
For more on Ferris State University please visit their website at www.ferris.edu