CAMBRIDGE Andrew Ference isnt leaving Boston in the next few weeks, and his family is going to stick around as theyve planted roots in the fair city over the last six years.
But the 33-year-old defenseman cant sit around forever and wait for the NHL and NHLPA to come to accordance on a new collective bargaining agreement. Instead Ference is among the many players eyeing Europe if theres a prolonged work stoppage reaching into December or January. The choice to move abroad for hockey work is as much about practicality as anything else for Ference, who is in the final year of a three-year deal with the Bruins and cant afford to fall behind the NHL flock.
During the last lockout you saw some guys that stayed behind when others went to Europe or played in the AHL. Those guys fell a step behind the other players when the NHL got started again, and they had a really difficult time catching up to the pace, said Ference. Im in the last year of my deal and I cant afford to just sit around and allow the intensity to dial down in my workouts.
There were over 200 NHL players that never returned to the NHL following the 2004-05 lockout due to age, injuries, rust and the quickened pace of the game among other things, so its a legitimate concern.
Most NHL players will flock to Europe for a few dollars and the chance to play somewhere a little more exotic than North America. But the biggest reason for an NHL player to head overseas is to remain sharp while playing in high intensity hockey games. Both the NHL and NBA players are fortunate there are many quality pro leagues in Europe looking for players when a work stoppage hits.
Along with David Krejci and Dennis Seidenberg who are about a week away from leaving to play in their home countries until the NHL resumes Ference is hoping to find a spot as many players look for an employment port during the lockout season. Ference played 31 games for HC Ceske Budejovice during the 2004-05 lockout, and finished with 20 points in a productive offensive role for the Czech Republic club.
The Bs alternate captain confirmed that another stint with Ceske Budejovice was certainly within the realm of possibility. Ference didnt seem concerned there would be difficulty finding a job in Europe if he waited for a few months to see how things come together in labor negotiations.
There are no shortage of great leagues out there where you can keep yourself sharp, said Ference. I think most of us are going to wait at least a few weeks to see if the negotiations heat up. If they dont then youll start to see guys make the move thats best for their career. Thats something different for each individual player.
For Ference that will include Europe if the best efforts of the NHL and the NHLPA dont get things going over the next month.