Ference looking at Europe as way to stay sharp during lockout

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Ference looking at Europe as way to stay sharp during lockout

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.

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

BRIGHTON, Mass – Let’s start with the straight fact that it’s asinine, apologist drivel to let the Bruins off the hook, and perpetuate an off-the-mark myth there isn’t enough talent on the B's roster to be a playoff hockey team.

They are middle-of-the-road in the talent department to be sure, and the roster depth clearly isn’t what it was in their elite years, as the Bruins balance an aging core group with an influx of youthful talent from the next generation. But this is also a proud, talented group with one of the best all-around centers in the NHL in Patrice Bergeron, a former Norris Trophy winner and future Hall of Fame defenseman in Zdeno Chara, a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate and in-his-prime All-Star left winger in Brad Marchand, an emerging 20-year-old offensive superstar in David Pastrnak and a former Vezina Trophy winning goaltender still in his prime in Tuukka Rask.

That doesn’t even mention high-end players David Krejci, David Backes and Torey Krug that are game-changing talents in their own right.

Combine that with the other players on the Bruins roster and this is a team interspersed with proud Stanley Cup winning players and enough talent to still take care of business in the final eight games and punch their playoff ticket. Winning a Cup in 2011 can never be taken away from Chara, Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, Rask and Adam McQuaid, and neither can the seven straight seasons in the playoffs under Claude Julien.

But there’s a danger now of some late-in-the-game tarnish on Black and Gold legacies for some of those distinguished, proud players if they once again collapse down the stretch this season and miss the playoffs for the third year in a row with a late-season nosedive. Four consecutive regulation losses have cast doubt into everything for the Bruins and roused all the same old uncomfortable questions from the past three years.

Bergeron and Marchand need to find their best games and dominate the way elite players do in big-game situations like Saturday night vs. the Isles. Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo and Frank Vatrano need to show they're ready for the playoffs.Rask needs to finally show he's ready to shine as a No. 1 goalie and lead his team to victory in a big game rather than buckle under weighty pressure. 

“This is their legacy, those guys. They are Stanley Cup champions and they missed last year. Each year we talk about writing our own story, and I believe that because guys come and go,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “But generally there is a core group of guys and it’s their legacy. I’m sure they want to reach the playoffs and get back to being a Stanley Cup contender every year.

“That’s what they want and to a man I’m sure they would tell you that. I do believe that they believe it’s different [this season]. Until you change the course of your results, those questions are going to come. We have to change the results to make then go away. One week of not getting results that we want doesn’t mean we’re panicking, but we do understand what’s at stake. We want to be playing in April and May.”

If the Bruins can’t pull out a win on Saturday night against the Islanders, who just pushed even with them at 82 points on the season, then their playoff lives will no longer be under their own control anymore. It will become another late-season choke job by a team that will have its character and courage questioned. The highs of six years ago will be matched by the bitter lows of the past three seasons.

People won’t talk about a scrappy, little underdog Bruins team that just couldn’t get over the hump once again. Instead, they’ll lament a formerly proud, tough-minded group of hockey players that somehow turned into NHL tomato cans all too willing to play the victim once the going got tough late in the regular season.

That’s no way to go out if you’ve ever had your name etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup, and the Bruins that know better should be taking that to heart right now.