Andrew Ference isn’t from Boston; he’s from Edmonton. He didn’t come up in the Bruins’ system; he was drafted by the Penguins and played there as well as Calgary before being traded to the B’s. However, you certainly get the feeling that Ference is now a Bruin for life, even if his time in Boston has come to an end.
The veteran defenseman certainly gets “it,” no matter how you describe “it.” But when the 2013-14 season begins, the Bruins will have to find a way to get along without one of the better teammates they’ll ever have.
Ference was informed by the Bruins on Wednesday that he won’t be re-signed this summer. The 34-year-old is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and with more pressing decisions to make in attempt to get under a lower salary cap, general manager Peter Chiarelli is forced to part ways with Ference.
“With the current cap Peter isn’t going to be able to keep me,” Ference said Wednesday at the team’s break-up day. “So you know, he’s got to resign Tuukka [Rask], and obviously do his side of the business. Also unfortunately with the new CBA, he’s restricted. He said ‘wish it wasn’t so,’ but that’s the way it is.”
Chiarelli later confirmed as much during his meeting with the media as well. Ference went on to further emphasize that he understood the decision Chiarelli and the Bruins had to make. That doesn’t make it any easier for Ference, who had really become an integral part of not only the Bruins’ dressing room but also the City of Boston.
When Boston saw its darkest days in April with the Boston Marathon bombings, Ference was one of the most outspoken Bruins. He, along with Shawn Thornton, sat and spoke about his love for his city prior to the team’s first game after the bombings as the club’s unofficial spokespeople. It was also Ference who suggested the Bruins wear first responder hats for their pregame warmups the day after a city-wide manhunt ended in the capture of the two alleged bombers.
This is the same guy who ran the Harvard Stadium stairs with fellow Bostonians and whose eco-friendly ideology is seen across the city. And if that’s not good enough for Bruins fans, there’s always the finger better known as an “equipment malfunction.”
Ference did all he could for his team and city in addition to helping to bring a Stanley Cup to Boston, which is about all you can ask for.
Add it all up, and there’s a good bit of memories for Ference to reflect upon after six-plus years in which he and his growing family called Boston home.
“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,” Ference said Wednesday. “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.”
The opportunity to play and live in Boston not only allowed Ference the chance to play in a tremendous sports market for a club filled with history, but it also allowed him the opportunity to meet a lot of new people. That, according to Ference, rivals what he was able to do on the ice.
“So obviously to have that over the past few years is priceless, and that’s obviously a big reason why I wanted to stay,” he said. “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.”
Ference won’t only be missed by Bruins fans, he’ll be missed by his teammates as well. A former NHLPA rep, Ference also took an active role in representing his teammates and the rest of the NHL players in labor talks. It was also Ference who sought out the various player of the game award passed from teammate to teammate. Those are just a couple of example of the blue liner’s ability to not only be a good teammate on the ice, but off of it as well.
“There’s going to be guys that have to try to step up and fill what he’s been doing the last couple years,” Johnny Boychuk, a frequent D-partner of Ference, said. “He’s a great guy, and I wish him the best because he’s been part of this team and you’ll never forget a guy like that.”