Mention the name David Feherty to your average sports fan and the overwhelming response will be one word – golf, which isn’t too surprising since the 60-year-old native of Northern Ireland has been involved with the sport for more than four decades.
After turning pro in 1976, Feherty spent most of his playing career in Europe, culminating in a spot in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Shortly afterwards, he made the move to U.S. and the PGA Tour before retiring as a player in 1997. And yet it seems that Feherty’s career in golf was just beginning. Possessed with a distinctive voice and unafraid to share his personal opinions, Feherty quickly became in demand as an analyst, first with CBS and now with NBC. He also hosts his own show on the Golf Network, is a contributor to Golf Magazine, has authored several bestselling books and is one of the lead announcers on the EA Sports video-game series Tiger Woods PGA Tour.
What is considerably less known is his fervor for all things hockey – an enthusiasm that naturally had its roots on the golf course. “After I moved full time to the United States in the 1990s, I started to develop new golf friendships with a host of hockey players,” Feherty said. “I’ve played with Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Brett Hull and Jeremy Roenick, and that led me to get really interested in hockey. At first I was drawn to the speed of the play, but what really got me hooked was the camaraderie amongst those who on the ice give it their all, engage in such a physical game, and play it so hard and yet after the final buzzer sounds can often be found sharing a pop or two afterwards.”
Feherty also couldn’t help but notice one particular aspect that he felt both hockey and golf had in common. “I came to understand the passion in hockey, especially when it came to the Stanley Cup, which reminded me of the Ryder Cup,” he said. “To me, both present the purest form of sport. Neither one of them has anything to do with money, in both cases it’s all about the Cup.”
Inspired by that passion and by his work with the First Tee program, which is a golf organization that encourages young people to go outside, stimulate an interest in the game, build character, while at the same time installing a sense of fair play, Feherty wondered if a similar program could work in a hockey sense.
Enter Brad Jones and his team at HockeyFest – Game On!
Labeled “a traveling hockey experience” by Jones, the head of the Jones Entertainment Group, he and Feherty are hoping to, as Jones said, “take the essence of hockey, the integration of real rinks, the support of official referees and produce the largest road-hockey tournament in North America.” Using a format that features 4-on-4 street hockey, with divisions for all ages and genders, each game is played on a rink that’s half the size of an NHL surface, with real boards and real netting. There’s music and food, as well as an area dedicated to interactive games featuring mini-stick rinks, skills competitions and more.
With five HockeyFest events planned throughout Ontario in May and June (in Peterborough, Kitchener, London, Ottawa and Barrie) as well as one at the United Center in Chicago on June 22-23, HockeyFest – Game On! is a collaborative effort dedicated to growing the game at the grassroots level, while also engaging the fan bases for the various hosts and their teams during the off-season.
In the works for two years, various NHL franchises are starting to take notice with both Nashville and Vegas tentatively scheduled for next year, and queries from Montreal and other teams coming in.
For Jones and his team, the whole concept boils down to the tagline: “Real Rinks. Real Refs. Real Fun.”