By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Andrew Ference has always bristled at the notion he was injury prone, or perhaps too small to consistently withstand the NHL pounding a defenseman must endurewithout sustaining bodily injuries.It was tough to argue he wasn't exactly that while missing an average of 30 games each season during his first three full years with the Bruins. But then last year's Stanley Cup season happened, and Ference maintained his health and wellness for the majority of a bruising campaign.
The 32-year-old Ference enjoyed his first largely healthy season with the Bruins while playing 70 games along with a full playoff effort of 25 contests, and posted 15 points along witha plus-22 while avoiding all of the lower bodyissues that have plagued him through the years. His year-long presence was unmistakable along the Boston back line, and the leadership within the dressing room during the postseason simply couldn't be ignored.
Its no coincidence that good health and beneficial fortune for Ference coincided with his hockey clubfinally capturing the Stanley Cup. Even better, the defenseman enjoyed a healthy summer of workouts getting ready for the new season and a chance to repeat as Stanley Cup champs.
Ference joked that he probably felt a lot better when he was 18 years old, but is as good as ever physically given all of the knee,groinleg issues hes battled throughwith since landing in Boston midway through the 2006-07 season.
You saw a long list the last couple of years of ourguys having surgeries in the summer and spending all of those weeks simply rehabbing the injuries. Those are difficult off-seasons that eat up your entire summer, said Ference. To not have that to deal with this summer, you feel a lot better about things. "I wasnt limping around the whole summer. That was great."Groin problems and sports hernia issues really hampered Ference through each of the prior two playoff runs for Boston, and became a public sticking point when the veteran blueliner had inked a three-year contract extension before last year. But the Bs defenseman proved the critics wrong en route to enjoying his best season in Black and Gold, and provided the kind of embracing, thoughtful leadership that the rest of the team gladlyfall in behind.
Ference is ready to provide that steady hand along the blueline again as the team goes about the difficult chore of attempting to capture another Cup, and he along with the rest of his teammates knows it wont be easy. Staying healthy, focused and successful within the brutal NHL landscape is the ultimate challenge that the Bs are gearing up for.Ference knows that all too well.The biggest challenge is, of course, the mental challenge to stay sharp, to remember what it took to get there and know how hard the battle was, said Ference. We have an honest and open group and were fairly level-headed about knowing what it took for a team like us to win it in the first place. Were not a very flashy group. Nobody is kidding themselves into thinking that and with so many guys returning we have a pretty easy time talking about that.
With Ference taking a healthy, prominent role again this upcoming season, the Stanley Cup champion B's are already ahead of the game.