On a typical non-game day, Sean Farrell will get up at 7:15 a.m. and drive to the Fox Valley Ice Arena.
The second-year Chicago Steel forward will begin an online Harvard University course by 8 a.m. in a nearby suite within the rink. That class lasts an hour and 15 minutes before another commences for an additional 75-minute stretch.
Farrell, 19, takes a break to participate in a team workout before a lunch break. Practice usually lasts slightly over two hours before heading home to begin homework.
It’s a routine that was anything but expected just a few months ago.
Farrell earlier this year was set to begin the next chapter of his life at Harvard and as a member of the men’s ice hockey program. In August he arrived on campus where he was there for a month – taking classes all on Zoom. At the time, chances of an Ivy League hockey season commencing was uncertain to say the least.
“...I heard we definitely weren’t playing until January, and then it seemed to be getting pushed back even further and further,” Farrell said. “I ended up coming out here to Chicago – just for a place to train and play – still with the hope that I might be playing in college later in January or February.”
By mid November, the Ivy League announced the cancellation of the winter sports season.
Farrell had to pivot.
“I just had to talk with my parents and the [Steel] general manager, Ryan Hardy, and asked if they’d be willing to have me back for another year,” Farrell said. “Even though I wasn’t really planning to be back here and kind of joined the team a little bit late. They were all super helpful.”
“In terms of the difficulty of my schedule, the past few years, I’ve been on a similar schedule with high school,” Farrell said. “...I was probably waking up earlier and going to classes in-person from 7 to 12. I think that was actually a lot harder for me than doing the classes on Zoom every day and then being at the rink.”
In his first year as a member of the Steel last year, Farrell tied for first in the United States Hockey League in assists with 41. In 44 games, Farrell was seventh among points leaders with 15 goals and 41 assists.
Through 12 games this season, Farrell is fourth in the USHL in goals scored with nine and second in points with 22.
Farrell in October was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the fourth round of the NHL Entry Draft, 124th overall. Posted highlights of Farrell only provide a snapshot of the story of the dominance and skill Farrell provides on the ice.
“I think you’re seeing a player that sees the game at a higher level than most. He’s able to process the game at a level that allows him to create time and space for himself, which makes him look so dominant at times,” Chicago Steel associate head coach Mathew Deschamps said.
“You would think from an outsider’s perspective...he should be a very impactful player at the college level right now” Deschamps continued. “...there are some people that would think he doesn’t have to work as hard as he does. Or, there might be some players in that same position that would let off the pedal, but Sean is internally motivated to be great at what he does.”
Farrell continuously “every day pushes himself to try to be better than he was yesterday.”
“He’s a quiet kid, but he speaks through his actions ,” Deschamps said.