Ex-Flames blueliner still coming to terms with trade to Boston

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

Just a scratch beneath the surface lies the bitterness Andrew Ference experienced almost two years ago.

Oh, he smiled his way through his return to the Saddledome yesterday.

He said all the right things: A lot of time has passed, and there was no weirdness coming back to the city he thought he'd call home at least a few more years -- maybe the remainder of his playing days.

But the memory of the trade that tore Ference from the Calgary Flames teammates with whom he enjoyed a run to the Stanley Cup final still holds some sting his smile can't hide.

He doesn't mention Flames general manager Darryl Sutter by name, but make no mistake, the deal that sent him to the Boston Bruins changed the way Ference feels about his former employer.

"Some bitterness," admitted Ference, who likely feels a little foolish that he didn't ask for the now-trendy no-trade clause after signing a three-year extension with the Flames just before that season began. "But it is a business, and I guess it's a bit foolhardy to start believing it's more than that."

Ference now finds himself in a situation similar to the one he enjoyed when he first arrived in Calgary. He's part of a young team that is turning things around after a couple of disappointing seasons.

That's the main reason the 29-year-old Albertan described his homecoming as nothing but "fun" yesterday before his Bruins took on his former Flames.

That and the fact so many months have passed since he was told during an eastern road swing he wouldn't be returning west with his teammates.

"It's been long enough. If you had asked me right after the trade -- if I had to come back after a couple of weeks -- it would have been tough," said Ference. "But Boston's been awesome. It's been a really, really great fit. "

"It's fun to be a part of that. It's reminiscent of when I came to the Flames and we really started turning things around. It's a fun environment to be around and I'm really enjoying it."

Personal feelings aside, the trade was probably good for Ference. He's carved out a much bigger role for himself in Boston than the one he had with the Flames as a bottom-pairing blueliner.

Averaging more than 22 minutes a night -- third most on the team -- Ference led the Bruins with a plus-six rating before last night, and had four assists through 10 games.

He's also earned the respect and friendship of his new teammates, who probably can't picture him playing anywhere else.

His Flames teammates were riled when Ference was traded. Many were as angry and confused as the flocks of local fans who fell in love with the 5-ft.-10, 189-lb. rearguard even more for the personality and honesty he displayed in interviews than his performance on the ice.

Ference monitored that from Beantown.

"It was a tough situation. I think the toughest thing for players to see is friends go through something where you put a lot of faith and trust into people that you expect to reciprocate," Ference said of the belief he had in the organization when signing the extension he thought would keep him in Calgary. "If it doesn't happen, it makes you question how they're going to treat anybody. I think it was tough for guys to maybe to see that.

"And I think, somewhat, rightfully so. There's contract negotiations and stuff like that where there was a lot of faith and it didn't really work out."

At least not the way he thought it would.


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