BOSTON – It sounds very much Andrew Ference will play in Saturday afternoon’s matinee between the Bruins and the Edmonton Oilers in his first game back recovering from a concussion.
The Oilers captain had been tracking toward a quick recovery from a head injury, and it seems only appropriate he’s ready to go against the team where he’d won a Stanley Cup and served as alternate captain. It was a difficult separation for both the player and the team when Ference was allowed to walk away from Boston as a free agent last summer.
But Ference’s seven seasons of passionate, dedicated work in the Hub of Hockey haven’t been forgotten by his former teammates.
“It will be nice to see him back in the Garden. I know there will be a couple of claps for him, and it’s well-deserved because he’s a good leader. He was for our team. He’ll get the camera on him as he should.
“He was a really good person for the city [of Boston], and he’ll get recognized for what he did for the team.”
The 34-year-old was a valued leader, a reliable veteran and a feisty, thoughtful personality that carved a big piece of the team’s decision-making group within the dressing room. Ference was the same guy that tossed out an “unintentional bird” to the Habs fans at the Bell Centre, and spent his own time, money and energy for environmental endeavors designed to make the world a better place for everyone.
Ference should be welcomed with an emotional video presentation and a warm embrace from Bruins fans on Saturday afternoon in his return, and it’s very much the same sentiment inside the B’s dressing room.
“I think it will be exciting, especially for the fans,” said Zdeno Chara, who formed a strong friendship with Ference during their seven years together in Boston. “He has done so much for this team, and for this city. He’s a very likeable guy. He was always one of the favorites on this tea, and he played with a lot of heart.
“I think that he definitely should get some recognition. We all wish him only the best. He was always quick to respond in funny ways when he needed to, or in serious ways when that was needed too.”
Clearly things have worked out for Boston with Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton and Kevan Miller playing larger roles as young, affordable defensemen with varied talents in a really strong crop of youthful blueliners in the B’s organization. Ference was named captain of the Oilers before he’d even played a game in Edmonton, and has displayed his normal humor, commitment and excellent leadership through a difficult start to his career there.
But Bruins players, fans and likely Ference himself will be turning back the clock for just a few minutes on Saturday afternoon when the moment comes for the TD Garden fandom to give the longtime B’s defenseman the kind of send-off ovation he never managed to get when he was leaving Boston.
“We saw him [on the road] in Edmonton. He came to see us, and everybody made time for him,” said Claude Julien. “We’ve had some good players here that have played for our team, and just because they’re playing for somebody else doesn’t mean you lose respect for them.
“I think that respect has been mutual in a lot of ways. He was part of our group that brought a championship here. He’ll always be welcomed in our environment.”
It should be incredibly clear to everybody just welcomed Ference, the veteran warrior, is at the Garden when he gets his moment with the B’s fans on Saturday afternoon.