BOSTON (CBS) — It’s been five years since Andrew Ference laced up his skates for the Bruins, but Boston fans will always love the former defenseman.
That feeling is mutual, too. Ference returned to the city on Tuesday, and brought along a good friend of his. It’s a friend Bruins fans hope returns for another summer when a new chapter of NHL lore is written this postseason.
That friend, of course, is the Stanley Cup. For Ference, who now works in the executive offices of the NHL, bringing the Cup back to Boston stirred up some fond memories.
“It puts a spell on you,” he said of the famous trophy, sitting just a few feet from him as he chatted with WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche.
The 2011 Boston Bruins shocked the world with their Stanley Cup victory over the heavily favored Vancouver Canucks. The gritty team had fought back from a pair of 2-0 series holes in earlier rounds, so when the Canucks took both games in Vancouver to start the series, they didn’t panic. Both teams would win on their home ice over the first six games of the series, setting up a deciding Game 7 in Vancouver.
The Bruins weren’t fazed going into that winner-takes-all contest and cruised to a 4-0 victory. They took a 1-0 lead late in the first period off a Patrice Bergeron goal and added two more in the second frame, which was more than enough for netminder Tim Thomas. When Brad Marchand put in an empty-netter with just a few minutes to go, Ference and his teammates were ready to erupt.
“The whole playoffs you try to keep an even keel. You hold a lot in. It’s cliché, but then those last few minutes you can really let it go — not just from that series but your whole life,” recalled Ference. “Thinking about what it’s going to be like when you’re a kid playing on the pond. I had lost [a Cup final] in Calgary in a Game 7 against Tampa, and [remembered] how brutal it is to lose a cup. So you bunch all of that as the clock is going down, and then it’s just a flood of emotion.”
Ference said those emotions subsided just a bit as he celebrated on the ice with his teammates. But then as the Cup made its way from player to player, and finally to Ference, his attention turned to one thing.
“You make sure you get a good picture,” he said with a hearty chuckle. “Make sure you get a good one for the den.
“I remember holding it. In that game I took a hit in the third, so my shoulder was really messed up,” he recalled. “There are stories of guys like that who have a separated shoulder, so nothing is going to stop you from lifting that up.”
Winning on the road meant the Bruins had a lengthy flight back to Boston that evening. Rushed out of the Rogers Arena because of rioting Canucks fans, they didn’t get to celebrate as much inside their dressing room. But that just meant a much more lively trip home.
After ending a 39-year Stanley Cup drought for Boston, the city was ready to join that celebration. The party seemed to last all summer.
“You go through that entire summer and it was just so magical,” he said. “The parade was insane; I’ve never seen so many people in my life.”
Each player gets a day with the trophy, and Ference was the last Bruins player to get his turn. That gave him plenty of time to plan the perfect day, one he shared it with all of Boston.
“I took it to my kids’ school, to Spaulding Rehab. It was just an incredible day. I have no regrets and wouldn’t change a thing,” he said. “I felt like I did it right.”
Ference is on record saying it was a better day than his wedding day. That may ruffle some feathers with Mrs. Ference, but she actually agrees.
“She was probably more excited about the cup anyways,” he said. “It was more well-planned then my wedding day, and everyone said yes.”
With the Bruins among the best team’s in the NHL this season, there’s a great chance the Cup spends another summer in Boston. Ference is impressed with Boston’s young core, led by a trio of players he celebrated with back in 2011: Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
“They’re a special group of guys,” he said of that trio. “Zee constantly improves himself and adapts. He improves himself and puts so much effort into maintaining his health and his excellence. He works hard; really, really hard. It’s not just that he’s big. He’s changed his diet and it’s like he’s made out of granite now. He was built before, but now he’s chiseled out of steel.
“Like we were in that group and through the years, that core group of leaders make sure everyone is proud to be on the B’s,” Ference added of this year’s team.
Ference is now working in the league offices as the Director of Social Impact, Growth and Fan Development. If you think that’s a mouthful, Ference agrees.
“Really summing it up, our department is in charge of the long-term health of hockey. Whether that is through more people playing the game, cheering for the game as fans, or falling in love with the game,” he explained. “It’s all over the place, a very wide scope.”
It’s the perfect job for Ference, especially when it means he gets to spend time with his old friend.