From NHL to Harvard: North Andover's Farnham headed to legendary school, playing final round of pro hockey

Jul. 24—Bobby Farnham's journey in life is playing out like a Walt Disney sports film.

The former undersized National Hockey League tough guy from North Andover, who fans fell in love with for his willingness to fight far larger opponents, will soon be heading to Harvard University.

"It does make for a pretty unique story," said Farnham with a laugh. "When I got to the NHL, I was trying to shake the stigma of being a New England prep school and Ivy League kid. So I went out and fought and picked fights and tried to be an agitator to prove I was tough. Now, I'm trying to end that stigma now that I'm headed to Harvard."

The former Brooks School, Phillips Academy and Brown University star, and veteran of nine professional hockey seasons, will enroll in Harvard Business School in the fall.

But the 33-year-old isn't done with hockey just yet.

Farnham is current playing in 3ICE, a 3-on-3 hockey league that airs on CBS and CBS Sports Network that consisting of former NHL and major college hockey players that tours the country playing games.

"This will be my last ride in competitive hockey," said Farnham, the 2006 Eagle-Tribune hockey MVP. "I tried out and ended up getting drafted. It's been cool to have the chance to completely close the door on my playing career, which was left open because of the COVID pandemic. and thanks to the rules, I don't have to worry about fighting. I'm having a lot of fun playing hockey one last time."


Listed at 5-foot-10 and 188 pounds, Farnham carved out an unlikely career as an NHL tough guy.

Farnham played eight professional hockey seasons (2011-19) in America. He appeared in 67 career NHL games with the Pittsburgh Penguins (2014-16), New Jersey Devils (2015-16) and Montreal Canadiens (2016-17), scoring eight goals, and 404 American Hockey League games (43 goals).

The winger then played one season for the Belfast Giants of the British Elite Ice Hockey League, scoring 15 goals in 48 games before the season was cut short by COVID.

"I technically stopped playing once the pandemic hit," he said. "I had a few European offers, but there were so many restrictions, and playing in front of the rambunctious European fans is part of the allure of playing over there.

"I decided to move on with my life. I felt good about how my body felt, especially given the way I played all those years. It just didn't make sense to lose all my teeth again and get hurt."


Following his playing career, Farnham went to work for Global Hockey Consulting Inc., which represented him as a player.

"I thought, after nine years, I owed it to myself to see the game and industry in another light," he said. "Working in the business side of hockey has been very full-circle.

"My job's pretty broad. I've been a part of it all. I've worked in played development and business strategy marketing. I've done a lot of scouting and dealing with younger players, giving insight based on my career. I've dealt with general managers, agents and players who are in the situation I was during my career."

Farnham will next attend Harvard Business School.

"I applied to Harvard Business and was accepted," he said. "I'll be going back to school for the next two years. I have been taking some prerequisite stuff to get ready. I will really decide what I want to do next there. Sports business has always been something I've been interested in. It'll be one of the many things in my head."


Despite believing his pro hockey career was done, Farnham decided to return to the ice this summer, as part of the 3ICE league.

"3ICE is a league started by (television producer) EJ Johntson and it's similar to the NBA's BIG3 League," said Farnham, who is still wearing the No. 46 made famous by many members of his legendary athletic family across many sports. "It's on weekends, 3-on-3, no-contact hockey. It's been fun.

"One of the coaches is (NHL Hall of Famer) Joe Mullen, the father of one of my best friends (longtime AHL player) Patrick Mullen. We decided to go out to Las Vegas for tryouts. I ended up getting drafted in the fourth round by (NHL Hall of Famer) Bryan Trottier."

In 10 games, Farnham has tallied four goals and eight assists.

"It's been really interesting," he said. "I had to adjust, because it's a different game, very back-and-fourth. There are a lot of offensive chances. I had to break some of the bad and good habits I have had for a while. I had to change my mindset and pace. It's good hockey. I feel very blessed."