Completely out of nowhere almost a week after Thanksgiving in 2005, the Boston Bruins effectively blew up their team. In one of the most shocking trades in city history, Mike O’Connell dumped Joe Thornton to SJ not long after he got dusted by John Madden on an OT faceoff. After reportedly calling SJ and just SJ, he sent the big center to his former teammate Doug Wilson for a second-liner, a fourth-liner, and a defenseman that wanted nothing to do with the East Coast.
Not only was it shocking, it was an awful trade even if it did provide the money to eventually sign Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard. About 15 months later, Peter Chiarelli, knowing that Brad Stuart would not re-sign with the Bs, jettisoned the D-man to Calgary with Wayne Primeau in return for Chuck Kobasew and Andrew Ference. While Chiarelli was just trying to clean up O’C’s mess and bring in guys that actually wanted to be here, he ended up bringing in one of the most unique, thoughtful, and beloved players to ever don the Black and Gold.
Ference came to Boston with a reputation as a tough, stay-at-home type that could also chip in occasionally on offense and will defend his teammates at the drop of a hat. And that’s exactly what we got from him as he helped bring the Bs back to its winning ways.
Off the ice, Ference ingrained himself in virtually every aspect of the surrounding community. He lived right in the city. He rode his bike everywhere. He gave endless hours to countless charities and hospitals (particularly Spaulding Rehab). He was approachable, honest, and, it seemed, never said ‘no’.
Perhaps his best off-ice feat was conquering the idea (to some) that a progressive, environmentally-friendly, compost worm-raising tree-hugger (his words) couldn’t kick the shit of you. Because he is tough-as-nails. He challenged not only opponents on the ice but thought-processes and opinions off of it. And he didn’t do it in a ‘I know better than you’ manner that can often be a turn-off—he just said, “Hey try this, it’s cool. If not, that’s cool, too”.
Whether he was going to Africa in the off-season or helping out the You Can Play project or donating more time for armed service members or (almost) making flash mobs cool for a day, Ference was always up to doing something good, trying to make things better for somebody somewhere. In short, he was a model Bostonian and a model human being.
He wasn’t just another guy who comes in for a few years, wears the laundry, gets a salute, then disappears into the NHL dustbin of guys who played here. He made an impact here that will linger long after he plays his final game, wherever and whenever that may be.
On behalf of Bruins fans everywhere, thank you Andrew Ference. You’re one of kind, will be missed, and, most importantly, you’re a Bruin forever. Best of luck wherever you end up. We’ll always love you.