By Joe Haggerty
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.