Best of luck in Beantown -- that was the message from Calgary Flames fans yesterday after absorbing the news popular defenceman Andrew Ference was traded to the Boston Bruins Saturday.
Ference, 27, a key cog in the Flames' heady run to the 2004 Stanley Cup final, is "a great guy off the ice," said Flames fan Grant Farhall.
"The way he treated the fans was really rare," he added.
Although fans said Ference will be missed, many felt the four-player swap makes the Flames stronger, with GM Darryl Sutter acquiring blue-chip blueliner Brad Stuart, 27, and forward Wayne Primeau, 30, for Ference and 24-year-old winger Chuck Kobasew.
"It's a bold move -- I think it sends a statement that Darryl Sutter is going for the Cup this year," said Tom Simon, another devoted Flames fan.
Recent NHL scuttlebutt held that Stuart, a former junior star with the Calgary Hitmen, was coveted by Oilers boss Kevin Lowe -- which only adds to the coup, said Simon.
"Anything that cuts down on Kevin Lowe's options is fine by me," he said.
Opinion was divided on calgarypuck.com, an online forum for local hockey fans.
Many said Ference's scrappy work ethic will be missed.
Others worried about Stuart's impending status as an unrestricted free agent and Kobasew, a former 20-goal scorer, could blossom into a legitimate scoring threat.
For fans gathered at pubs to watch yesterday's game between the Flames and the Detroit Red Wings, the positive effects of the trade weren't immediately apparent.
"It hasn't worked out too well so far because (they lost)," chuckled Gerry Holstein as he took in the game at Hooters' N.E. location.