Ference is back in town for the first time since signing with the Edmonton Oilers on July 5, and it’s expected that he will get a very warm reception from Bruins fans in attendance. It would certainly be deserved seeing what Ference did in his six-plus seasons with the Bruins where his on-ice impact was matched and even surpassed by what he did in the dressing room and in the community.
The return is also special for Ference, who always enjoyed his time in Boston. Being back in town for Saturday’s tilt has given the veteran blue liner a chance to see some old friends and reflect on the chapter of his life spent in Boston.
“Obviously we have a special place in our lives for everything that happened here in Boston and I think that a lot of people kind of appreciate that,” Ference said Saturday morning. “It’s not like I have a whole lot of highlights with great goals or anything like that, but I think people appreciate what I was a part of with the community and stuff like that. I’ve had, even since I left, people send me tons of messages from Boston all the time. So I think the view is mutual of how great we feel each other are.”
Ference’s lasting legacy in the city and community will center greatly around what he was able to do away from the rink. He was a big recycling advocate and spearheaded a lot of other eco-friendly causes while with the Bruins. But Ference’s impact for what he was able to achieve on the ice with his team will also be remembered for a long time. When Ference came to Boston in 2007, the Bruins weren’t yet what they are today as one of the league’s premier franchises. Ference’s veteran presence helped the Bruins improve and build their brand, eventually culminating in a Stanley Cup in 2011.
“It’s great to get involved and to know even on a bigger scale not just the impact with different stuff like recycling, but the impact the group of us in there had as a core group,” he said. “When we started, people weren’t wearing the Bruins stuff. The team was struggling a bit and then we got to a point where we got it back to where it should be. People love the team, love the sport. So there’s that sense of pride as a group of us that got to experience that whole growth of that.
“I think that there’s a lot of guys in that group, too, that did reach out into the community and made it more than a place to play. You saw guys downtown, I’m sure people see a Bruin pretty much every day if you’re walking around downtown or the North End or something like that. I think it’s neat that a whole bunch of us embraced the city and I think that helped bring the popularity of the team back to where it should be.”
Ference’s departure from the Bruins was a smooth one. He understood that the team was ready to go in a different direction, and he had no hard feelings toward general manager Peter Chiarelli or the rest of the organization. Such an amicable break-up is rare these days, and it has allowed Ference the ability to move on easier.
“I said it when I left, too, that I realized how fortunate I am to leave under those circumstances,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys over the course of their careers that get traded at the drop of the hat. They’re packed up and gone and don’t have a chance to have a long, drawn-out good-bye like I did. When I was told I wasn’t going to come back here, it was under the best terms with Peter and with the team and they were happy with what I did and I was happy with everything they did, which is great. I had the chance to see a bunch of friends and see people here, and that’s special. It’s been as fairy tale as it gets in the sports world from a player’s perspective of how to go to a different city and leave a city and be able to know you can come back to open arms.”
Those arms will probably be wide open and waiting for Ference on Saturday afternoon.