Haggerty: Ference's attitude good for the NHL

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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

Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

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Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while in disbelief mode that the summer is almost over.

*Good piece on the remainders of the Hartford Whalers organization in Connecticut trying to keep the dream alive for the Whale.

*Tyler Seguin sits down for a podcast this week that I freely admit I did not have the time to listen to. I wonder if Boston even rated a mention in the conversation?

*Rating the top NHL contracts, according to the fancy stats hockey analysts, sounds like an interesting exercise.

*Tracey Myers has Duncan Keith bowing out of the World Cup of Hockey while recovering from an injury, and getting replaced by Jay Boumeester.

*The “Da Beauty” Hockey League has kept players like Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh and David Backes in hockey shape this summer while slowly getting ready for the season.

*The Arizona Coyotes make a historic hire by naming Dawn Braid as skating coach, making her the first female coach in the NHL.

*For something completely different: FOH (Friend of Haggs) Rich Shirtenlieb guested on the #DORK podcast this week, and it sounds like he didn’t love “Stranger Things.” At the very least he liked “Preacher” better. I thought Preacher was entertaining, but I didn’t even think it was in the same stratosphere as Stranger Things. Rich also has me wanting to watch “It Follows” now, however, after his endorsement.

 

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

It’s no secret Bruins fans are getting fed up with a hockey team in decline, one that’s missed the playoffs each of the last two years. Now there are numbers to prove it.

Channel Media and Market Research, Inc. came out with its annual New England Sports survey,  tabulating responses from over 14,600 polled, and, according to the numbers, the Bruins are dropping in popularity, fan support and faith in the current management group.

The B’s are holding somewhat steady with 16 percent of voters listing them as their “favorite sports team” behind the Patriots (46 percent) and Red Sox (29 percent) while ahead of the Celtics and Revolution. Claude Julien also ranked ahead of John Farrell among the big four teams in the “coaches/manages most admired” category.

But after sitting at a relative high of ranking at 27 percent for “ownership performance” in 2014 -- they year after their trip to the Cup Finals against the Blackhawks -- the Bruins now rank dead last in that category at 2 percent, behind the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and even the Revolution. Ouch, babe.

Also sitting at a lowly 2 percent is Bruins president Cam Neely in the “leadership performance” category. In "management performance," Neely has dropped from a solid 49 percent in 2014 to just 16 percent in this summer’s survey.

So B’s fans are clearly upset with a team that traded away Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, and has featured a decimated defense corps for each of the last two seasons. But do the B’s fans think that things are getting any better with prospects coming down the pipeline?

Not really.

In the “which team has done the best job making its product better.” category, the Patriots (35 percent) and Red Sox (31 percent) were resting at the top, with the Celtics (27 percent) a respectable third. The Bruins limped in at just 4 percent with a fan base that very clearly sees that, on paper, this upcoming season’s club doesn’t appear to be much better than last year's.

On top of that, only 13 percent of those surveyed believe the Bruins have gotten better over the last year, and 52 percent believe they’ve just gotten worse. A lowly 3 percent of those surveyed think the Bruins have the best chance of the five teams to bring a world championship back to Boston; the Patriots (79 percent), Red Sox (11 percent) and Celtics (5 percent) all ranked higher.

Finally, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Hayes were at the top of the list of the Boston athletes “who did not meet expectations” last season. None of that is a surprise, given the state of Boston’s defense along with Hayes’ subpar season.

The good news for the Bruins: They still have a passionate fan base. But they need to start reversing course immediately before they do lasting damage to the B’s brand.