Ference knew this was it with Bruins

Ference knew this was it with Bruins
June 26, 2013, 8:00 pm
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Andrew Ference had an idea he might not be returning to Boston when he wasn’t approached about an extension in the final year of his three-year deal.

(AP Images)

BOSTON – Andrew Ference had something of an inconsistent regular season with the Bruins, and it’s pretty clear now why as he cleaned out his things from the TD Garden for the last time as a member of the organization.

The 34-year-old Bruins alternate captain had an exit meeting with Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien, and learned that the Bruins needed to go in another direction because of salary cap considerations. It certainly wasn’t an easy meeting for Chiarelli or Julien, who have nothing but the ultimate respect for the veteran blue-liner.

“I spoke with him, and told him that we wouldn’t be re-signing him and we kind of rehashed our history with the Bruins. If you can recall, we brought him in my first year. He’s been part of this, what we’ve built here,” said Chiarelli. “The warrior-type of attitude and playing style for his size and as Claude talked about, the leadership.

“He’s been through seven years, basically, and you can’t say enough about his leadership and what he’s brought to our organization. It was a tough conversation to have.”

Ference had an idea he might not be returning to Boston when he wasn’t approached about a contract extension in the final year of his three-year deal with the Black and Gold.

Ference admitted it was a distraction to him earlier in the season, but he made peace with it later in the year and was the same feisty, intelligent, competitive hockey player once the playoffs began.

“Nobody is going to do their job as effectively when there is uncertainty,” said Ference. “At different times of the year it affected me differently. I think at a certain time of the year I just resigned myself to the fact [I wasn’t coming back] and that was a good thing to do. The people that make up this city are unbelievable. The best friends that we have in our lives are all from here,” said Ference. “The lifestyle and the area that you live in has enormous impact on your quality of life and your performance on the ice.

“But it’s not a fun thing. At the rink it’s one thing because you don’t think about anything when you’re out there, but for the kids and for my wife – and all of the stuff away from hockey – it sucks because they have uncertainty. We all understand how great our life is, so you’re not seeking pity. But in a perfect world you want your kids to know where they’re going to school next year.”

Ference said the city, the school system and providing a good landing spot for his wife and two daughters would be priority No. 1 in his next NHL employer, and he’s also the kind of player that would be best suited on a playoff team. Ference is a fiery competitor that gives everything he has on the ice, he’s still capable of playing a full-tilt, two-way defenseman role for 20 minutes a night and he’s the kind of honest, well-spoken leader that brings a dressing together with his leadership.

So Ference has his mind trained on the next free agent landing spot as he vacates his Boston condo, but he’s also still beams with pride about how much the B’s franchise has turned around in his seven years with the Black and Gold.

“You didn’t see too many Bruins hats around,” said Ference, of when he first arrived via trade with the Calgary Flames in the Dark Ages back in the 2006-07 season. The Bruins have made the playoffs in each of Ference's six full seasons in Boston and been to the Cup Finals two of the past three years.

 “I’m incredibly proud. If you fully invest yourself into the team and your job, you’re going to feel the losses harder," Ferrence said. "But you’re also going to feel the victories even more strongly, and be more proud of them. I came into the city as an individual in the room that was fully invested, and so lucky to be able to play under Claude [Julien] for all those years and with a couple of the other guys that have been here to see it develop and grow.

“After a couple of years when we had established a certain environment here, it was about going to keep it right there. That’s not an easy thing to do, but the guys have done an unbelievable job of it. There’s a lot of pride in that. It’s also one thing to have a good environment in the room, but if you’re not successful then it doesn’t count for much. But to have that environment and have guys that really pushed each other, and who didn’t accept excuses…that’s a more difficult thing to maintain over time. That is a source of pride [for me] for sure.”

Ference leaves the Bruins fold and will undoubtedly be looking for a multi-year deal elsewhere for something in the $2.5-$3 million range, and should be worth it given his performance, leadership and proven track record. The Bruins will attempt to move on with younger, more affordable players like Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton who established themselves in the playoffs.

But it’s safe to say nobody is going to replace the well-spoken, accountable, tough presence Ference provide in the dressing room while bringing players from all different backgrounds together for the common goal of winning. Those players are rare, and Boston’s loss will be another NHL team’s gain.