PHILADELPHIA Andrew Ference has played in 782 NHL games counting regular season and the playoffs, and hed managed to avoid any form of suspension in the first 11 years of his career.
That all changed Sunday when the NHL tagged Ference with a three-game suspension for boarding New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. The hit knocked the blueliner out of Saturdays game and got Ference thrown out of the game with a five-minute major and game misconduct for charging.
Both Ference and the league agreed his hit wasnt a dirty hit or malicious play during a Sunday morning phone hearing, but it was still a dangerous collision given the speed, strength and competitive levels involved.
It was mutually agreed on the phone that they saw absolutely no intent to injure, which is what I saw as well. We all agreed on that, said Ference, who will return to the lineup for a Feb. 2 home game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Hes not injured. Im very happy about that. So with those things into play the league comes up with a number.
Everybody has opinions, but it doesnt really do any good for the players to have strong ones. Its not going to change anything.
As Ference alluded to, it appears McDonagh is going to be fine after getting checked out by team doctors. But first-time offender Ference was still sanctioned by NHL sheriff Brendan Shanahan for the reckless hit that appeared to fit the exact parameters of the new boarding rules put into enforcement prior to this season.
Shanahan indicated he took into account Ferences spotless 12-year career and the lack of a McDonagh injury, but that still netted the veteran blueliner a three-game suspension and over 36,000 in lost wages. So rather than gather ammunition for a fight he cant possibly win against the league, Ference has opted to take his spoonful of league-mandated medicine and simply wait for his involuntary, unpaid vacation to be over.
There were no injuries, so first and foremost that was a positive, said Ference. As far as opinions on the suspension I think its probably best served for friends and family. It doesnt serve much purpose for me to dole that out right out here. The process happens and they come up with that number, so be it and Ill deal with it.
At the end of the day its Shanahans call and you just deal with it. I gave my full opinion with him. I was going extremely fast trying to win a race to the puck. Once I realized that the race to the puck was lost, I changed course and tried to create a pin situation where you can battle for the puck. But at the initial contact of the pin he loses his balance to the extreme and goes in pretty hard.
Consider it a lesson learned for all involved, and, in all likelihood, the only blemishes one will ever see on Ferences overwhelming personal history of good hockey conduct are one high-speed collision and an equipment malfunction that everyone in Montreal still talks about to this day.