Connor Ford describes his fast and furious 72 hours in the transfer portal
The UND fifth-year senior transferred from Bowling Green this summer. He heard from 40 of college hockey's 59 programs within three days.
Connor Ford thought his college career was over in March.
He watched the NCAA tournament selection show, and when his Bowling Green Falcons were passed over, he began looking at the next step of his career.
Ford had spent four years at Bowling Green, racking up more goals than all but two college hockey players in that time. He figured it was time to start his professional career.
Ford waited to get NHL contract offers, but they weren’t coming.
“Within a week, I kind of figured out I wasn’t going to get what I was looking for. . . at least not what I was expecting or hoping for,” Ford said. “So I began weighing my options of turning professional for something less than what I wanted or looking in the portal.”
Ford talked to people he trusted -- his parents, the coaching staff at Bowling Green, his former Falcons coach Chris Bergeron who is now at Miami, and Shattuck-St. Mary’s coach Tom Ward.
He considered North American pro deals. He looked at options in Europe. And he thought about going into the transfer portal, playing his final year of eligibility at another school and hoping that would lead him to a better contract.
“I got answers that directed me both ways,” Ford said. “I was kind of split in the advice I got, believe it or not.”
Ultimately, Ford decided to enter the transfer portal to see what college options would arise. It didn't necessarily mean he was going to transfer, but he wanted to know what offers would be on the table.
Ford notified Bowling Green’s coaching staff that he wasn’t coming back next season, then had the compliance office submit his name.
“It’s rather easy,” Ford said of going in the portal. “Kind of hilariously easy. You reach out to compliance. They give you a sheet of paper. You sign a sheet of paper. You notify the coach you’re going in, or you can have them notify (the coaches) for you. Once you file your paperwork, you’re in. You’re a free man at that point.”
Ford completed his paperwork the morning of Monday, March 29.
That night he decided to have dinner with his girlfriend in Toledo, Ohio, about a 20-minute drive from Bowling Green.
They sat down at Condado Tacos at about the same time his name was added to the portal.
Within 20 minutes, he began receiving calls and texts from coaches.
“We were sitting there and we kind of got interrupted,” Ford said. “Buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz. I essentially had to put my phone down. I made the decision I was going to reach out to teams I was interested in and let them know they were in the hunt, because it was overwhelming.”
Ford didn’t take many calls that night, but he did take one from UND coach Brad Berry. They set up a future Zoom call. Ford also took calls from Bergeron, Miami’s head coach who served as Ford’s head coach for two years at Bowling Green, and Western Michigan coach Andy Murray.
“I did decide I wanted to go the NCHC route,” Ford said. “Those were the three I wanted the best. I cut it down pretty quick.”
Ford heard from 40 of college hockey's 59 teams within 72 hours.
Coming to UND
Ford, of Pittsburgh, played two high school seasons at the Faribault, Minn.-based Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep School, which has sent many of its most prominent alums to UND: Zach Parise, Jonathan Toews, Drew Stafford, Brady Murray, Matt Smaby, Taylor Chorney, Ryan Duncan, Chay Genoway and Ben Blood to name a few.
When Ford initially went through the recruiting process six years ago, he leaned on Shattuck’s longtime coach, Ward, for advice.
Ward gave Ford a list of schools whose coaching staffs he trusts. UND was on the list.
“Believe it or not, I came on a visit here way back when,” Ford said. “I doubt the coaches even remember. I came and walked through these halls. Ultimately, I wasn’t a highly touted recruit by any means. Bowling Green was a much better opportunity for me.”
Ford reached out to Ward again in March for assistance in navigating his offseason decision.
“I trust him with my life,” Ford said. “We kicked around every idea of what programs professionally he trusts. If I was going back to college, where was I going to go? This is definitely a place he mentioned. Even other options, like if I wanted to play overseas. . . we talked about everything. He gave me great guidance and that helped me make this decision.”
Ford settled on UND, where he’s set to play a prominent role immediately.
The Fighting Hawks lost their top three centers to NHL contracts — Collin Adams to the New York Islanders, Shane Pinto to the Ottawa Senators and Jasper Weatherby to the San Jose Sharks.
Ford, a center, will jump into the top-line center role and play in all situations.
He can help UND’s power play, which lost 80 percent of its top unit in the offseason. A year ago, Ford tied for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s lead in power-play goals with six.
With his hard-to-play-against style, Ford also should be able to help on the penalty kill.
Ford said his adjustment to a new program has gone smooth.
“Bowling Green is a super competitive environment. . . kind of no nonsense, detailed,” Ford said. “Anybody that has come across Chris Bergeron would understand how Bowling Green came to be like that. And this is a similar place — detailed, hard-nosed, not overly flashy, blue-collar mentality. So it’s been easy for me to fit in from a hockey standpoint.
“I just kind of want to step in and continue to do my thing and develop and try to get better every day, and hopefully keep this program going in the right way and leave my mark on it.”
Off the ice, Ford is finding his way around Grand Forks, too.
He likes finding local places to watch football games and has discovered the Toasted Frog as his favorite dinner spot.
“It’s a great little town that I’m going to enjoy living in for a year,” Ford said. “I wish I could stay longer.”
The NCHC's offseason transfers
F Noah Prokop, soph, 0-0--0 <- Omaha
F Danny Weight, fr, 0-0--0 <- Boston College
F Grant Cruikshank, jr, 8-2--10 -> Minnesota
F Ben Copeland, jr, 4-7--11 -> Penn State
F Troy Conzo, sr, 2-3--5 -> Sacred Heart
F Cameron Wright, sr, 13-16--29 <- Bowling Green
F Kohen Olischefski, sr, 4-10--14 -> Providence
F Steven Jandric, sr, 1-5--6 -> Merrimack
F Jake Durflinger, sr, 2-2--4 -> Merrimack
F Hank Crone, jr, 5-4--9 -> Northern Michigan
D Bo Hanson, sr, 1-3--4 -> Northern Michigan
D Slava Demin, jr, 3-5--8 -> UMass
D Griffin Mendel, sr, 0-2--2 -> Quinnipiac
F Jack Doremus, sr, 0-2--2 -> TBA
F Michael Regush, jr, 11-7--18 (2019-20) <- Cornell
F P.J. Fletcher, soph, 0-6--6 (2019-20) <- Quinnipiac
F Thomas Daskas, fr, 3-4--7 <- Air Force
F Chase Gresock, jr, 4-4--8 <- Merrimack
D Will Cullen, jr, 6-19--25 <- Bowling Green
G Logan Neaton, soph, 0-1, .855, 4.85 <- UMass Lowell
F Casey Gilling, sr, 4-11--15 -> Minnesota Duluth
F Phil Knies, sr, 3-6--9 -> Bentley
D Rourke Russell, sr, 3-2--5 -> Sacred Heart
G Ben Kraws, soph, 0-6, .875, 4.49 -> Arizona State
D Alec Mahalak, sr, 0-1--1 -> TBA
F Casey Gilling, sr, 4-11--15 <- Miami
F Brady Meyer, soph, DNP -> TBA
F Ashton Calder, jr, 16-13--29 <- Lake Superior St.
F Connor Ford, sr, 16-12--28 <- Bowling Green
D Chris Jandric, jr, 5-17--22 (2019-20) <- Alaska Fairbanks
D Brady Ferner, jr, 2-6--8 (2019-20) <- RPI
G Zach Driscoll, sr, 15-10-3, .922, 2.32 <- Bemidji State
F Harrison Blaisdell, soph, 0-4--4 -> New Hampshire
G Peter Thome, sr, 2-2, .872, 2.83 -> St. Thomas
F Brannon McManus, sr, 9-16--25 <- Minnesota
F Ryan Brushett, soph, 1-6--7 -> UMass Lowell
F Noah Prokop, soph, 0-0--0 -> Colorado College
F Josh Boyer, soph, 0-0--0 -> St. Lawrence
D John Schuldt, jr, 0-0--0 -> St. Thomas
D Alexandre Roy, soph, 0-0--0 -> Niagara
ST. CLOUD STATE
F Aidan Spellacy, jr, 5-6--11 <- Robert Morris
D Trevor Zins, soph, DNP -> St. Thomas
F Brett Van Os, sr, 4-4--8 -> TBA
G Austin Cain, sr, 3-8-2, .870, 4.04 -> Providence