February 12, 2013; Boston, MA USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference (21) gets ready for a face off during the first period against the New York Rangers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
At the end of every season, the coach and the general manager sit down with each of the players for a review. Some players get a plan on how the staff would like them to improve, some get warm regards for a great season, and a few receive fond farewells. The last one was the case for Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference. Ference has been with the team for the last seven seasons. With a diminished salary cap, and the need to resign Tuukka Rask and Nathan Horton, sacrifices for the team’s collective good had to be made. With young players like Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton coming up, it made good financial sense to cut Ference. It’s a damn shame though.
He has been one of those players who is dedicated and driven to help his team succeed.
He’s one of those rare multi-faceted warriors. Sure, we all remember him for flipping off the Canadiens fans. (To be honest, that little stunt put him on my radar. I thought it was equal parts genius and insanity.) I thought he was one of those hockey goons they joke about in other sports. Then I heard him in the post-game press conference. My first thought was literally. “Whoa, he may look like an inked-up palooka, but he’s one of the best spoken athletes I’ve seen.” He represented the Bruins at the closing talks of the latest CBA (and was a former NHLPA rep for the team.) It was his intelligence and saavy that helped the NHL and NHLPA to strike a deal to give us this shortened season. He needs to be thanked for that alone.
I He wasn’t a prolific scorer for the Bruins (thirteen points, four goals in the regular season and two assists in the playoffs.), but he more than earned the “A” on his chest. For the last three seasons, he was the cheerleader of the team. It was his idea that brought forth the ‘player of the game’ in each of the Bruins playoff runs. In 2011, it was the classic Bruins jacket he found on eBay. His ideas were thoughtful and helped build the esprit de corps that made the Bruins such a family-organized team. (I never saw Recchi so emotional at the moment Ference gave him the jacket on the day they raised the Stanley Cup Banner.) Last year it was the twenty-linked lock, and this season was the Ranger jacket. He is a catalyst for the Bruins success.
He was also someone who ingratiated himself into the community. He and his family became part of Boston, and it wasn’t that unusual to see him working out at some god-awful time in the morning. He was one of those players that welcomed and was welcomed by others into his life. With his day with the Stanley Cup, he put it in a baby carriage and rode around his neighborhood. When the National Anthem gets sung, and the camera pans down the lines, you usually see most players heads buried in their gloves. Not Ference. That Canadian is seen singing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’. (He sings it with more sincerity than most Americans I know, and that always stuck with me.)
So, I’ll leave the rest of it in his own words. “Well I mean, even looking through the stuff in New York – we’re lucky we got the cap to where he did, he’s have even more of a nightmare on his hands with trying to keep this team together. Obviously throughout the year you prepare yourself I guess for not being here. You hope that things can work out, but I think myself and my family are quite prepared for it. Doesn’t make it any easier. I think obviously with the team that we’ve had the last few years, I mean I’ve been around the sport long enough to know that six straight years of playoffs and to do it with a bunch of guys that get along with a coach that we’ve been able to work with for as long as we have – it’s been an absolute blessing. So the hockey side of it is about as good as you can get anywhere in the entire league over the last few years.”
“When you pile on the fact that we’ve been able to live in this city, and we have no greater friends in the world than the ones that we made here. So obviously to have that over the past few years is priceless, and that’s obviously a big reason why I wanted to stay. Obviously our friends outside of hockey, and the schools that our kids go to are second-to-none – that’s just as tough if not tougher to leave than the hockey side of it. So it’s not easy, but that’s life. At the end of the day, if I’m playing it’s tough to complain. I dreamed to playing in the NHL and I’m so fortunate to do that no matter where you are.”
Thank you Andrew Ference. You got a tired old soul interested in the game with your personality. You got me into hockey, and it’s now an addiction. You will be missed by the team, the fans, and Boston.
March 16, 2013; Boston, MA USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference (21) celebrates his goal with the Bruins bench during the second period against the Washington Capitals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports