Haggerty: Ference's attitude good for the NHL

191545.jpg

Haggerty: Ference's attitude good for the NHL

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

The Bruins didnt exactly look like a bitterly divided team while holding the San Jose Sharks to a season-low 18 shots in a shutout loss on Saturday afternoon.

Yes, it was a shutout loss. But it was also a group of players that were giving effort including Andrew Ference, as he blocked four shots and sacrificed his body for the team as he always does.

But it didnt stop the blanket clichs of a divided dressing room from being thrown around by Hockey Night in Canadas Don Cherry on Saturday night during his Coachs Corner segment. Cherry was discussing Ferences frank, justified comments in the wake of the Daniel Paille head shot that earned a four-game suspension, and he wasnt pulling any of his jabs.

Here are Cherrys comments from Saturday night on CBC: I dont care if youre teammate is an axe-murder. What youve got to say is when you go into the dressing room and say to the guy, That was a dirty hit. But youd never do that anyhow. You never go to the press and say that it was a bad hit.

Id hate to be in that dressing room now. Did you see what happened in the game on Saturday, it was a 2-0 loss. It brings your dressing room down when youve got a guy in there talking about your own players and you know theyll get suspended.

Ference was very candid during the aftermath of last Thursday nights win over the Stars when Paille lined up RaymondSawada with a blindside hit to the head in the second period that broke the forwards nose.

One day later Paille had himself a four-game suspension handed down from the NHL.

Bruins coach Claude Julien contended Sawada was skating through the slot area with his head down while fumbling for the puck, and general manager Peter Chiarelli hoped for leniency given Pailles clean NHL record.

It was a far cry from Ference, who clearly stepped across some imaginary teammate line when he labeled Pailles collision a bad hit and something that needs to be taken out of hockey. Paille cruised all the way from his wing position and clocked Sawada with a hit to the head that broke his nose and could have very easily caused a concussion.

Both players were lucky the consequences werent any worse.

Heres a snippet of what Ference said on Saturday thats clearly rooted in bitter feelings over Matt Cooke taking out Savard, and watching as other Penguins players looked the other way or even worse, defended the indefensible cheap shot artist.

Its a bad hit, right?" said Ference. "You hear it from every player after they do it, they feel bad, and same thing, I talked to Danny Paille and he feels bad.

You cant be a hypocrite about it, though. Ive thought about this a lot and had plenty of time to put things in perspective over the last year. Sidney Crosby has been very vocal about the head shots and blindside hits since he suffered one in the Winter Classic, but what did Crosby say after Cooke hit Savvy last year? Nothing.

I thought a lot about that. You want to be a good teammate, but you shouldnt be a hypocrite about it.

Since those remarks there have been all kinds of accusations that Ference is going against the family and breaking an unwritten code of conduct while decrying the hit before any kind of suspension was handed down to Paille.

But whatever the timing and circumstances, there is never anything wrong with telling the truth. Thats exactly what Ference did: tell the truth as he saw it from a clear perspective that allowed him to sleep at night.

Ference is a progressive, thoughtful sort of guy that stands as one of the real outliers when it comes to the social network of NHL players. Hes involved environmentally, he drives a Prius and once again hes on the cutting edge among his hockey brethren when it comes to head shots.

Ference watched Patrice Bergeron struggle to simply live three years ago after a dangerous hit from Flyers defenseman Randy Jones, and hes watching Marc Savard's career and health being jeopardized by multiple concussions.

Ference fumed when nobody on the Penguins, aside from Bill Guerin, criticized Cookes hatchet-man act last March, and he determined he wasnt going to be one of those hypocrites if the shoe was on the other foot.

Ference has been a leader on the Bruins from the time he arrived in Boston four years ago, and hes continued in that regard while standing up for teammates, playing through injuries and skating courageously no matter what the situation.

His judgment and motives shouldnt be questioned given his track record, and given the teammates hes watched go down with major head injuries over the years. Perhaps if there were more outspoken and involved players like Ference, it wouldnt have taken a dastardly Cooke elbow to get head shots outlawed by a league still making excuses for their dirtiest players.

Instead there still exists a stubborn, bullheaded attitude harvested by voices like Cherry that celebrate and condone brain-rattling hits rather than condemn them.

It's one thing thats still very wrong with hockey, and its a big reason why integrity-driven players like Ference need to keep telling it like it is no matter what the consequences.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Backes set to star in Animal Planet special this weekend

bruins_david_backes_101116.jpg

Backes set to star in Animal Planet special this weekend

It’s only a coincidence that it will air the same week that the Boston Bruins went Hollywood with their annual three-game road trip through California, but David Backes and his wife Kelly are going to get some solid TV time this weekend. The animal-loving couple are going to be featured Saturday night in the all-new Animal Planet special "Stars to the Rescue," which highlights the Backes family’s excellent work to ensure every animal has a ‘furever’ home.

The lifelong animal lovers have adopted five rescue pets that all made the move from St. Louis to Boston this summer, and launched Athletes for Animals in 2013, a non-profit organization supporting professional athletes and animal advocacy efforts. The 32-year-old Backes chose a Boston animal shelter as his first setting to meet with the Boston media this summer after signing with the Bruins in free agency, and spoke glowingly about his inspiration for marrying two of his passions: helping animals and sports.

“The full story is that in college we wanted an animal or two, but it just wasn’t responsible because we were renting and the landlords didn’t approve," said Backes, the proud owner of four dogs (Maverick, Rosey, Marty and Bebe) and two cats (Sunny, Poly). "We just didn’t really have the time or resources to support them, so we volunteered at the local shelter for the three years I was in school.

“When my wife [Kelly] and I moved to St. Louis, we wanted to connect with the community, be a part and use our voice to influence social change to do our part making the world a little bit of a better place. So we said, ‘Why not connect with the animal welfare rescue community?’

“We absolutely love doing it: Walking dogs, scooping litter boxes and cleaning kennels. Let’s use our voice to kick this off and see what we can do, and it really just snowballed from that to then trying to tie other guys into it. It’s not limited to the animal stuff, but the animals that don’t have a voice, and the kids that don’t have a voice, really tug at our heart strings. We want to help them with this blessing of a great voice we’ve been given as professional athletes, and to really use that to give them some help.”

The “Stars to the Rescue” special premieres on Saturday night at 8 pm on Animal Planet where there will be a full segment on the Backes family, but here’s a clip where Backes talks about his well-publicized involvement with a number of stray dog rescues during his 2014 Olympic Hockey stint with Team USA in Sochi, Russia.

Backes isn’t the only Boston athlete featured during the Animal Planet special as it also chronicles the stories of other well-known athletes and celebrities and the dogs they can't live without: Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, Baltimore Ravens’ Ronnie Stanley, Selma Blair, ESPN Correspondent Michelle Beadle, WNBA star Elena Delle Donne, former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and more. From training buddies to comforting companions, “Stars to the Rescue” shows first-hand how these celebrities first met their cute rescued canines and how their dogs have impacted and transformed their lives for the better.

What we learned in Bruins' 4-1 win over Kings: Back on track

boston-bruins-dominic-moore-kings-22417.jpg

What we learned in Bruins' 4-1 win over Kings: Back on track

Click here for the gallery.