Ference put nose out of joint

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:15 AM ET

One day after Andrew Ference earned the All Business tie for a spirited fight with Matthew Barnaby, word of fisticuffs between two Flames teammates filtered through the dressing room yesterday.

And it's clear neither Ference nor combatant Marcus Nilson regret their actions, which left one player in need of medical attention.

"I broke his nose," declared Ference, unconcerned with making the proud declaration while Nilson stood in front of his stall 10 feet away. "He said it was a lucky punch."

Rest easy Flames fans, the fight came exactly five years ago when Ference toiled for Pittsburgh and Nilson skated in Florida. And while Nilson had already scrapped notables such as Darren Van Impe, Darcy Tucker and Darius Kasparaitis, it was Ference's induction into the NHL's Fight Club.

"Me and the Swede went at it pretty good in Florida," smiled Ference when asked about his first of eight NHL bouts.

"He was sticking up for Pavel Bure or something and we had a good one right at the end of the game. He said he was doing fine -- switching hands and everything -- until the refs moved in and then he says I suckered him. We still laugh about it."

Nilson remembers it like it was yesterday, especially because the little-known 5-ft. 10-in. defenceman surprised the hell out of him with his solid showing.

"He ran Pavel and I was playing on Bure's line so I had to do something," recalls Nilson, a 6-ft. 2-in., 195-lb. winger who has had 11 pro fights.

"It was a really good fight. We went for a really long time. We talk about it all the time. Now that I see how tough he is, I can't believe I stood in there so long."

While few in Calgary have seen Ference fight -- aside from perhaps the beating he put on notable wussycat Cory Stillman in the 2004 Stanley Cup final -- he's known for being as scrappy as he is intelligent.

"He's really tough -- people don't know that but he's fought some tough guys in this league," said Nilson, whose club got a rise out of Ference's spirited, 89-second draw with Barnaby, who he'd fought twice before.

"Anytime a guy is standing in there for that long and in such a good fight, it's a big boost. The emotions get going and it kind of gets the whole team going."

The crowd too, prompting a scribe to ask the last time he got a standing ovation.

"My wife gave me one the other night," said Ference.

While devoid of a bona fide tough guy, the Flames have a number of players who can take care of themselves (see graphic above).

The only other pair of Flames teammates who have hooked up before are Iginla and McCarty, who dropped the mitts in 2001.

Yet NHLers have long had the ability to laugh off past run-ins once they share a dressing room.

"I don't think too many guys hold grudges," said Ference.

"It's part of the sport."

Just business Marcus, just business.


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