Getting Andrew Ference for the remains of the Joe Thornton trade seems only fitting. Getting a known lockeroom leader in exchange for the remains of a terrible but neccesary trade. It was dark times. The Bruins were not even on the radar while the Patriots and Sox were having parades and piling up hardware. Also, the Bruins had little to no personality. No guts, no smiles, nothing. They weren't an easy team to root for. Ference was a big part of changing that. They say winning cures all ills, and that's true. But it's the rare combination when fans like their team and like their chances. It seemed that Ference was always smiling - unless you crossed him or a teammate on the ice. Then he would go into a blind fighting rage.
The Bruins seemed to go from being the punchline of a joke to the city's most likeable team very quickly. In 2008 they pushed the hated Montreal Canadiens to a seventh game after an epic game six at the Garden. In 2009, there would be something not seen in the city in nearly ten years - the second round. Another game seven loss, another hearbreaker. The sense that this team was getting closer every year wasn't lost on even it's most critical of fans. People who had left started to comeback to the Garden again. Suddenly it wasn't so easy to get tickets, even on random Tuesday night agains Florida. 2010 brought a contract extension for Ference that had a lot of of us scratching our heads, he was often injured and didn't contribute to the score sheet. As the team got more and more coverage, it became more and more obvious what a leader and a good teammate Ference was. 2010 brought one of the biggest heartbreaks of them all for Bruins fans, the epic collapse against the Flyers. There was no finger pointing, there was a lot of personal accountability in the post game. The Bruins had turned that corner. In the following season the Bruins showed they had turned a corner and learned from their previous season's losses. There was the rallying around Claude Julien after rumours he would be fired. There was a the epic game against the Dallas Stars if you like punching (I do!) Then eventually before the playoff started there was this jacket. It seemed a different guy would be wearing it postgame. It was an 80's style Bruins jacket Ference had found on eBay. It became important to all of us to see who the jacket would be awarded to post game every night. Then Ference did something Bruins fans could only fantasize about - he flipped off the Bell Center. Over 20,000 Habs fans - we all wish we could do it. He called out the Sedins in the Stanley Cup final on the ice, letting them know the Bruins knew what they were about. The Bruins put out an amazing Game 7 effort and they won their last game and had a parade of their own. Ference had lost a game seven while in Calgary and impressed upon his teammates that it was the worst feeling in the world. On Ference's day with the Cup, he elected to share it with the city that had adopted him. He flew in family and friends citing that the Cup meant a lot to the city and he would like to share it with them. A flash mob started a North End Feast style parade down Hanover Street. It was special.
Bruins fans liked Andrew Ference, but once he got on twitter it was a full on love affair. He tweeted about his teammates, the environment and his favorite workouts. He even challenged Patrick Burke of the You Can Play Project to participate in an early morning Nov Project work out. He celebrated the anniversary of the Stanley Cup win with a twitter scavenger hunt. He picked on Tyler Seguin! He interacted with everyone. He invited us to come see him in the Czech Republic for a beer when he played during the lockout. He let us all know the lockout was over with a Thumbs Up. He jumped on board with Chowdah's #treesforgoals iniative, making it go viral. He pledged for Seguin goals and encouraged the NHL to follow suit and participate. When Boylston opened up after the Marathon Bombings he tweeted pictures of our city to us. He went silent for the playoffs and reemerged with the amazing erasing of the playoff beard video. He is what you hope your athletes to be on twitter.
Though the news today from breakup day wasn't surprising, it stung a bit to hear it. Andrew Ference wouldn't be coming back.
The man that gave Sidney Crosby his first fight?
The man flipped off Centre Bell?
The man that bought "The Jacket?
The man that single handedly ended the lockout with a thumbs up emoticon?
The man that had Zdeno Chara pose a la Rose & Jack on the Titanic?
The man that chose to have his day with the Cup with a Flash Mob and Feast style parade in the City of Boston, opting to fly friends and family into Boston?
Gone, it's over. Next year he'll likely be amazing some other fan base with his enviornmentalism and tweets picking on rookies.
Not ever a huge factor on the score sheet, Ference was a good hockey player and a better man. He regularly attended and participated in neighborhood meetings in Boston's North End. He's on our trash cans, reminding us to recycle. He's a friend of the blog - making #treesforgoals go viral and encouraging the NHL to jump on board as well.
Ference changed the culture here and for that we Bruins fans are forever grateful. It's no fun to be the punchline in a joke. It's more fun to have a team that's in contention every years and has the love of the city behind it.
Thanks Ference - you will always be welcome in Boston and always be thought of as a Bruins. Wherever you land, you will impact another team in a positive way and we can only hope that the fans of that team get to know you like we did. It was truly our pleasure.