BOSTON – Andrew Ference admitted to being nervous in his first return to Boston after it was all over.
The longtime B’s defenseman and former alternate captain was part of the Edmonton Oilers club that got steamrolled by the Bruins in a 4-0 game at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon, but it was a bittersweet experience for Ference to be sure. On the one hand he watched a first period video tribute to his seven years in Boston and basked in the warmth of a long, lasting standing ovation from the fans at TD Garden after they’d cheered his first shift as he hopped over the boards.
That part was all sweetness and light as the Bruins jumbotron presentation celebrated Ference’s leadership, tireless involvement in the community, passionate willingness to stand up for teammates on the ice and his pivotal role in bringing a Cup back to Boston in 2011. It was a great seven year run for Ference with the B’s organization until free agency brought him to Edmonton in the summer.
“Obviously [I was] very well treated by the organization and the city while I was here, and when I left and throughout this year too,” said Ference. “It’s obviously a tremendous hockey city and the organization has been nothing but great to me. So that’s very, very special.
“Every time that I’m in this city is obviously going to be special. It’s a place that is home to me and my family, and we grew up here. It could very well be home again. It’s a special city. Tonight, this whole last couple days was great until it got put away by the game, which wasn’t so fun. Other than [the loss], it was nothing but good experiences here.”
But then the game happened, and Ference looked like a veteran player returning for his first game after suffering a concussion. He and defense partner Mark Fraser got hemmed into the Edmonton zone on their first shift of the game, and it worsened from there. Ference finished with a minus-2 rating, was on ice for each of the four goals against for the Bruins and was even on the ice for the disallowed goal that Loui Eriksson “kicked” into the net.
That part of Ference’s return was a swift dose of reality that the Oilers have a long way to go before they’re in the same category with the Bruins. The Edmonton captain arrived in Boston back in the 2006-07 season when the team was still working out from under the Eastern Conference rubble, and the franchise was more laughingstock than serious, perennial playoff contender.
That’s exactly the kind of transformation he wants to oversee with the Oilers, but it’s clear there is still plenty of work involved. Edmonton finished with just two shots in the first period, got completely suffocated by the Bruins defense and then watched as the roof collapsed while giving up three goals in the third period.
“[The video tribute] was nicer than the game,” said Ference. “Obviously it’s not fun to be on the receiving end of [the Bruins] playing a pretty solid game. We knew that they wanted to jump back after Montreal’s game, they just played solid. I think we hung in there for a bit. To have a 1-0 game was half decent but that’s what they are good at: they are good at the tight games, and they know how to jump on the mistakes.
“We gave them enough obviously to do that. They know how to win games and how to play very consistently. It’s obviously something that we have had a few learning experiences like that this year, and good examples of what we’re trying to accomplish in the years to come.”
Those words were spoken like a true leader of a young, hungry Edmonton hockey club, but also as one of the proud architects of a winning hockey machine that’s still churning out success, and chewing up points in Boston.