By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON -- Andrew Ference has always had to get by in the land of size, speed and strength with a little bit less than the average Bear. His speed is good and his pound-for-pound strength excellent, but his generous listing of 5-foot-11 inch height and 189-pounds have always made him vulnerable to injuries and a wear down factor in a league full of big, strong, mean individuals looking to do damage.
Ference has excelled in the NHL when hes healthy, and become a seasoned top-four defenseman with playoff experience, defensive acumen and enough passing and shooting skills to win a permanent job in Boston. The 11-year veteran has played in 640 regular season games and 78 playoff matches through his NHL career, but hes also never lost that feistiness hes flashed since he was a 20-year-old rookie with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
That showed up in the second period of Game Four at Montreals Bell Centre when things got away from Ference a little after scoring a momentum-altering goal that pulled the Bs to within 3-2 in their eventual 5-4 overtime victory.
Ference circled after scoring the rocket of a one-time goal with a look of pure disdain on his face, and clearly lost his cool within the wretched hive of the dreaded Canadiens while flipping his middle finger at the Montreal fans. Television cameras caught Ference flipping the bird to Montreal while the Bruins were still trailing in the game, and it perfectly captured the unflagging spirit and prickly mood that Boston was in while looking to take care of some playoff business.
On Friday afternoon Ference was fined 2500 for the obscene gesture cast toward the Bell Centre crowd, but also somewhat defiantly contented that it was an unintentional bird caused by a glove malfunction.
Ference twice said flashing the middle finger to any kind of crowd was not in his repertoire, but given the head of the battle and Ferences feisty nature a colorful show of defiance actually doesnt seem all that out of character. Its the kind of competitive spirit and will to win that Ference always displays once the playoffs start, and it also shows just how much the players have emotionally invested into the series against the Canadiens.
I was pumping my fist," added Ference. "Im not giving anyone the bird or anything like that. Like I told them, it was an unintentional bird. I obviously apologize for it, it wasnt meant to insult anybody, especially a whole row of cameras in the Bell Centre and the fans sitting there. Thats definitely not the intention.
Its nice that Ference tried to explain away his actions on a hockey wardrobe malfunction, but the look of total disdain in his eyes as he flashed his middle finger betrayed exactly what was going through his mind. Ference hates the Canadiens, he hates their fans, he hates their building and he hates anything that could possibly stand in between his team and advancing through the playoffs.
So the hate for Montreal and the Canadiens actually comes from an intense love for his teammates.
The chemistry in this room has been great for years, said Ference. But its like a marriage in that it takes work. You have to make sure its a certain attitude, and I think the thing weve always had to work on is the inclusion of everybody from the veterans to the rookies or the Europeans and Canadiens.
Everybody goes out together, and the real bench mark is that you could see any of us together out on the road going out for dinner.
None of strong feelings against the Habs makes Ference a bad guy even in a remote way.
It would have been completely understandable had Ference said that rather than invoking the now infamous unintentional bird. It might have been much more refreshing had Ference admitted that a framed still shot of the defenseman flipping off the Montreal crowd could hang prominently in his rec room for a long time to come.
While Mark Recchi brings the unending wealth of knowledge, Patrice Bergeron brings a regal wisdom beyond his years, Zdeno Chara brings an unquenchable work ethic and Shawn Thornton brings street toughness, Andrew Ference brings unmatched courage and the practiced art of simply doing whats right on the ice. Ference is always the first to respond when one of his teammates is targeted by opponents or taken down with a cheap shot, and hes had memorably fleeting moments of anger on the ice such as fights with Sidney Crosby and Sean Avery a few years back.
Its always been that way for him.
Ferences fearless call to action can lead to situations and words that are sometimes misunderstood or twisted as his refreshingly candid and accurate statements about Daniel Pailles head shot from earlier this season can attest but its much a part of the Bs identity as Charas one time blast or Tim Thomas lucky coin on a neck chain.
Ference was also the player that purchased the 1980s Bruins wind-breaker on E-Bay by way of Vancouver a jacket thats now being passed from player to player each time Boston wins and bringing much needed levity to the Bs postseason run.
Youll drive yourself crazy if youre not having some fun, said Ference. This part of the season is intense and stuff so you need a release every once in a while, but its a long year. You talk about camaraderie and a good dressing room a lot, and the value of both comes out at this time of year.
If you dont have a good dressing room, good camaraderie and a good vibe in the room then by this time of the year youre sick of each other. Ive been on teams where weve been sick of each other, and that affects when you do out on the ice. Chemistry is a very important thing when you spend so much time together.
Its little things like the Bs awful-looking Starter-style jacket and an unintentional bird between hockey teams that bring a little something different to the Bruins, and perhaps even helped spark a Boston team thats appeared much too passive at times during this series.
Ference may have to find a different way to inspire his teammates now that the bird police will be watching his hockey gloves closely, but its safe to assume the Bs defenseman will conjure up other ways to impact the important final three games of the playoff series.