WILL FERENCE BE THE LEADER?

Jason Gregor
July 08 2013 01:21PM

In the summer of 2001 I met Andrew Ference for the first time. I was working with John Short and Ference had agreed to come down to Northlands and be a guest on Short's show. Ference walked up to our table dressed completely in leather. He'd just turned 22 and finished his 2nd season of pro hockey. He started the season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL, but he finished the year playing 36 games with the Penguins and another 18 in the playoffs.

Life was good for the hockey player who loved riding his Harley.

Since that interview Ference has carved out a pretty good career. He's been to three Stanley Cup finals, winning with the Bruins in 2011, while losing last month and in 2004 as a member of the Flames.

The 208th pick in the 1997 draft has beaten the odds to play 760 regular season games and another 120 in the playoffs. I spoke with Ference on my radio show on Friday and here's what he had to say about coming home to play, winning and leadership. 

Jason Gregor: I remember the first time that I met you. You strolled in for the interview covered head to toe in leather. It was quite the outfit.

Andrew Ference: I remember coming down there.

Gregor: Are you still a big Harley guy?

Ference: I am, but you assume I was riding my motorbike, maybe I just wear pretty much leather all of the time. (laughs) I’m actually not riding too much now; those were before kid years so now I have two little girls who keep me busy.

Gregor: I saw you tweet out a picture of yourself as a young boy in an Oilers’ jersey when you signed with the Oilers. Outside of winning the Stanley Cup, was signing for your home town team one of the biggest days of your career?

Ference: It sure is, it’s really exciting it really is. I didn’t know what to expect going into free agency, I’d never gone before. I didn’t really know what the process was going to be like but obviously as soon as Edmonton popped up on the radar, it got me really excited. Not only because of my history there, obviously growing up there and the family that I still have in the area, friends that have never been able to wholeheartedly cheer for me on any other team, it’s exciting in that, but most of it is with what they (Oilers) had. I mean it was a two day process where I got to talk to the coaches and management and really get a feel for the attitude they want on the club and all of those things together. That’s why I’m excited today, there’s just so many checkmarks in the pro column.

Gregor: When they talked about the direction of the team, did they talk about you coming in and being a leader? You’ve been in the Stanley Cup final two out of the last three years; I think that you know how hard you need to work every night to win. Are you going to be called upon to be that vocal guy, maybe challenge your teammates to assure that they’re doing what it takes to be successful in the NHL?

Ference: Well if I’ve learned anything the past few years in Boston it’s that teams works really well when there is responsibility on everyone, everyone is accountable and everybody does their part.

There are different personalities in the locker room and definitely mine has been one that has been more vocal in the past, but at the same token, it’s just about being you and a lot of that different stuff comes naturally to me. I feel comfortable in that kind of position, but it’s a difficult thing to explain to somebody how it works.

You try to create an attitude in the room and an environment where people can perform their best. It’s like an energy, it is constant work, and constantly staying on top of it. At the end of the day, it’s not about yelling and screaming and doing all of these kinds of things, it’s about being accountable and everyone pitching in and doing their job and having a really good work environment where you can get the most out of people. It works differently in every room with the different characters, but I’ll definitely bring things that I’ve seen work first hand whether it be in Calgary or Boston or back in Pittsburgh.

Gregor: How many other teams were knocking at your door?

Ference: There were a few options, like I said, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I really tried to keep it out of my mind throughout the playoffs and for most of the season. I knew that there was a good chance that Bruins wouldn’t be re-signing me so I went in with a fresh mind on the options and going through things with my wife once things started.

We definitely had to make a list of the different cities and pros and cons and every city had a different level of interest as well so that definitely weighed in. The Oilers were very awesome with the way that they handled this whole period where I got a chance to talk to Dallas [Eakins] and MacT a lot and get a really good feel for what they were all about. That meant a lot to me, so it wasn’t really deciding between different options but I think that the final choice was in my gut right away. I think that once I started talking to the guys, I told my wife earlier that I think that my gut instinct was telling me that this is what we were doing.

LEFT OR RIGHT D?

Gregor: You shoot left, but are you comfortable playing both sides, or do you prefer left defence over right?

Ference: I’ve played everywhere over the past few years. Here in Boston you play with different partners and different sides most of the game and rotate between left and right but over the course of my career both left and right for sure.

Gregor: Is there one that you’re more comfortable with?

Ference: Yeah, you just do what the coach is telling you [laughs]. That’s about where I’m at, I don’t know, there are pros and cons to either side, but at this point I just do what is in the best interest of the team.

Gregor: Outside of hockey, you really became involved in the community in Boston. How important do you think that is and how do you ensure that other guys in the team recognize how fortunate you are to be NHL players and how important it is to give back to the community that you play in?

Ference: I mean it went into my decision making for sure, I’ve been lucky enough. I started in Pittsburgh with Mario [Lemieux] and Jags [Jaromir Jagr] and all of these great players there and the city was fired up about hockey. I was lucky enough to go to Calgary and Boston where people are really passionate about hockey and I wanted to continue that. It’s a good feeling to play in a community that cares.

It might be kind of a romantic view, but I really think that is important, sport is more than just entertainment. It does play a role in the city that you’re in and you have to show the city that it does come with responsibility.

With all things the years that we’ve been down here in Boston with the stuff in Newton and obviously with the marathon, sports plays a big role in bringing people together and moving on and trying to heal some of the wounds that remain. That’s obviously an extreme example but for me when you play somewhere, you have to dive in and be in all in. And that means not only with the team but it means with the city. I think that you get more out of yourself and out of your team when you do that because it’s just part of the full commitment that players and teams need to be successful.

Gregor: You’ve been on the perennial cup favourite team the past few years, while the Oilers haven’t been in the playoffs sincee 2006. How do you ensure your mindset doesn’t change from going in every night thinking ‘hey we’re going to win tonight’ to one that "I hope we win.". Can you translate that winning belief around the dressing room?

Ference: Even when you’re on a team that has won in the past; nothing is a guarantee in this league. When you win and have success I think that you learn even more how small that line is between successful teams and teams that are struggling; it’s extremely small.

We’ve had some spectacular losses here in a Boston and you learn why that happens and what you let slip. So I think that when people talk about Boston being a contender and all of the experience that guys have, well going back six years when a lot of us started on here, it wasn’t a good experience on our team. It took a hell of a lot of hard work and a lot of commitment to turn us into what we’ve become over the past few years.

I think that you learn a lot of lessons from doing that as a group, and it takes a lot of moving parts. It takes a lot of commitment from the individual players and like I’ve said, you can turn fortunes around very quickly in this league with changes in attitude, changes in the way that you approach how you view yourself as a team and starting to create an identity. So I think that when you can be a part of that, and we can build towards that, it’s a great feeling when you start to see that success. As exciting as that feeling is of having done it and having felt how great it feels to have a city feel proud of the product on the ice, that’s more than enough motivation to look to having it happen again.

Gregor: What were your thoughts on all of the stories coming out of Boston after Tyler Seguin got traded?

Ference: Well a lot of them were news to me. So like anything out there, I think that you take it with a huge grain of salt. He’s a kid; he had fun around town obviously, and sometimes it showed maybe a little too much, but to be honest with you, maybe I had my head totally in the sand or a lot of the stuff is highly exaggerated, I don’t know which one it is. He’s the kind of kid that has just an untapped amount of talent, and he could turn into an amazing player.

Like I just finished in my last couple of questions, you have to be fully committed in this league to have success not only as an individual, but as a team. The separation between teams is small, but that separation between a player having a lengthy career and fizzling out, those are also pretty small. You can’t come in and just dip your toes into this league and be half in it.

Gregor: You’re 34 years old while many of the Oilers key young guys are 20-23years of age. As a leader of a team do you have to remember how you were at that age so you don’t expect those guys to just grow up and mature right away?

Ference: Oh without a doubt, I mean it’s a learning process and it takes everyone different amounts of time. You have young guys that are so mature and have their business together better than some of the guys who are my age or closer to my age. Some of the guys are on a different pace and everyone has a different personality, you can’t just expect everybody to be the same. And actually to the contrary I think that people operate better when they are allowed to be themselves.

But in saying that, I think that if you are a guy that is loose and likes to have fun, that’s great, but it has to be in a team first context. I’ve had a lot of time here in Boston where there is a group of us that have created an atmosphere where there’s old guys and young guys and we’ve had guys like [Mark] Recchi and Jagr come into our team, and everybody had the same expectations. Whether you were old or young, you were expected to commit to the team, you were expected to have input. It wasn’t just the old guys that were expected to stand up and say something in the room, it was the young guys as well, it was expected of them.

We all have an equal share once you get on the ice and start playing. We all have equal part on the turnout of the game. If you can get that kind of atmosphere, if you can get that kind of environment, age becomes somewhat irrelevant. Getting your teammates working towards the same goal is obviously way more important.

Gregor:  I had an Eastern Conference player describe you like this in a text. He wrote “He’s not the most naturally talented player, but he’s incredibly hard to play against. He’s always in your face.” Talk about playing hard rather than playing physical, how is it different?

Ference: Well I think that when you’re my size you can’t just run around and physically bowl guys over. There is a lot to be said for guys that just don’t give up, guys that have a consistent work ethic. I see guys around the league and I know who is hard to play against, the guys that I hate playing against. They’re the guys that just don’t stop and they never leave you alone and they never give you any room to operate.

If they lose the puck they’re right back on you trying to get it back. To me that is what heart is, it’s guys that will do anything they can. They’re not perfect, and they’ll make mistakes, but those guys that work just as hard to cover up their mistakes, or a teammate’s mistakes, those are the guys who have long careers in this league.  

PARTING SHOTS...

  • Ference isn't afraid to speak his mind and the Oilers need a guy like that. He's proven he understands how competitive you need to be to win every night, and his biggest asset might be that he becomes the Lee Fogolin of this group. Fogolin was the savvy veteran who showed Gretzky et all how to be professionals. He didn't have their skill level, but he taught them to be pros. Ference's biggest contribution to the Oilers will come in the form of a leader and mentor, and not strictly how he performs on the ice.
     
  • Boyd Gordon might be better suited as the Oilers #3 centre than some think. Read here.
     
  • The Oilers re-signed Ryan Jones to a one-year deal over the weekend. He'll make $1.5 million which is a good deal for the Oilers. Last year was virtually a wasted season for Jones. He suffered an eye injury a few weeks before camp started, and they injury didn't allow him to skate or workout for five weeks. When he was finally cleared to train his cardio and strength were weeks behind. He spent the entire year playing catch up. He's in good shape now and he's determined to prove he can score 15-17 goals and be a factor amongst the Oilers' bottom six.  

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#1 book¡e
July 08 2013, 01:38PM
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2004Z06 wrote:

Loud pipes save lives!

First, its not true, but ever if it were, its not worth it. A few annoying man children lost to protect the rest of the world from having to put up with that crap would be worth it.

I used to ride a lot and never needed to annoy the rest of the world doing so. It's childish.

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#2 book¡e
July 08 2013, 01:31PM
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If he still has his Harley, I hope he does the world a favour and ensures that it has an actual muffler on it. Nobody needs to hear your insecurities ripping down the street.

It's good to hear the Oilers gave a good presentation on his visit. I think there is still a bit of a reputation about the management team here (Comrie, Souray, Belanger, etc)

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#3 2004Z06
July 08 2013, 01:35PM
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Loud pipes save lives!

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#4 The Soup Fascist
July 08 2013, 10:46PM
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DSF wrote:

Jason Smith retired when he was 35.

Ference will be 35 in February and has another 3 years and a NMC in his contract.

And Chris Chelios retired at 48, so what??

Jason Smith had a myriad of serious injuries throughout his career. Ference has been relatively healthy, especially over the last 3 years when he might show signs of breaking down. No reason to think Ference cannot contribute for a good part of the next four years.

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#5 Bonvie
July 09 2013, 01:06AM
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DSF wrote:

For those of you thinking Smid is hard to replace, he was just replaced by Andrew Ference.

You can never have enough bottom 4 defensemen.

Lol you are such a troll.

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#6 Spydyr
July 08 2013, 01:36PM
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It is going to take one heck of a tattoo artist to change that Bruin tat into an Oiler tat.

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#7 cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan
July 08 2013, 04:38PM
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book¡e wrote:

First, its not true, but ever if it were, its not worth it. A few annoying man children lost to protect the rest of the world from having to put up with that crap would be worth it.

I used to ride a lot and never needed to annoy the rest of the world doing so. It's childish.

agreed, those hoodlums need to stay the f off my lawn

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#8 TCB
July 08 2013, 06:34PM
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2004Z06 wrote:

Loud pipes save lives!

Bull sh!t!!! Bikers that act like dumb @$$es cost themselves their own lives. The ones that know how to drive save lives. Soap box away now.

I seem to remember Whitney being vocal and look how that turned out. I hope Ference turns out to be the right kind of vocal leader or better yet the "take everybody and make them understand what it really takes to get the hell out of the wasteland" kind of leader! (Not to put to much pressure on him or anything!)

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#9 Lochenzo
July 08 2013, 03:33PM
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Sounds like he's the kind of player that coulda played with the MacT group back in the early-2000's.

I can live with the B's tat. If he has a Flame's tat, he'd better cover that up with a unicorn.

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#10 Quicksilver ballet
July 08 2013, 03:51PM
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It is the ultimate compliment to Andrew Ference that MacTavish felt he could be that last piece needed for this lineup, and make this team a playoff club again.

Craigs actions speak volumes in this matter,no further changes are required. Sorry Laddy, you're no longer top pairing on this team bud.

That is why there have been no further changes since, right Craig?

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#11 WheresYourTowel
July 08 2013, 07:28PM
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This isn't a flyer on a declining player (although we may see the decline at the tail end of the contract).

This is a bonafide NHL blueliner who makes this team better just by showing up.

He's also been running his mouth a LOT about work ethic, so I would expect full effort from a guy who doesn't want to look foolish in front of his hometown fans.

This guy was good enough to play alongside the players you drool over between cheetos and mountain dew.

I, for one, welcome Andrew Ference and can't wait him to see him on the good guys.

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#12 Rocket
July 08 2013, 02:10PM
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Seems like a good guy. Too bad his corsi numbers have been terrible the last few years. Hopefully he does better with The Oilers.

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#13 Eddie Shore
July 08 2013, 02:11PM
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@book¡e

Is your soapbox not big enough to rag on loud jacked up trucks and rice burners too?

As for Ference, I'm glad he signed here. As Mac has stated since he took over, some of the players on this team appear to be naive as to hard you have to work consistently to win in this league. A guy like Ference, with his tenure, will be able to hold some younger guys accountable.

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#14 Taylor Gang
July 08 2013, 02:49PM
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I haven't been this excited over a free agent signing since... Well Justin Schultz last year. But Ference could work wonders for the team. Maybe Justin Schultz will clean up his defensive game with a proper shutdown at his side.

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#15 Shredder
July 08 2013, 02:52PM
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Of the Free Agent Signings we've made, this guy is by far the best. When I heard we got this guy, I got all amped up. The other guys might be able to play and fill some holes, but this guys' personality on the ice makes it for me...plus he's got a sweet playoff beard...let's hope we see it again soon.

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#16 Oiler Al
July 08 2013, 03:29PM
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Hopefully some of Ference's work ethic and hard on the puck play rubs off on the rest of the team. Too many "cruisers" on this team, Hemsky being the biggest one of them all.I hope Boyd Gordon comes from the same school.

Ference and Gordon the only real signing here, the rest of it fodder and AHL fillers.

Give MacT credit for not blowing his wad on the overpaid and over hyped UFA signings.[ Although not sure what they were offering Clarkson?]

Have to also give him credit for moving the Horcoff contract.

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#17 Yakman
July 08 2013, 04:02PM
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I did a group project with Andrew in grade 10 social studies. Of the two of us he did the better job. He's a quality guy. Good sense of humor.

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#18 HugThePost
July 08 2013, 04:20PM
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He won't be our Pronger or Chara, but hopefully he will be the glue the D and locker room needs.

He's a great story and hopefully he breaks the jinx of the hometown boy who comes home to only flounder.

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#19 Norm
July 08 2013, 05:13PM
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Apart from Gordon and Ference the Oil braintrust continue to piss nary a drop when it comes down to attracting top 6 free agents or top 4 D. It's as though Tambellini has never left. I'm tired of hollow promises. Most of the people drafted/signed are unknowns. If Mac and Lowe are done then I have to think the Oiler's future is done.

They can't draw flies. Nobody skilled enough to matter wants anything to do with an organization run by these guys.

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#20 Harlie
July 08 2013, 05:53PM
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The Souray Part Deux Redux 2.0 signing with less cash on the table.

Works for me, hope it does for everyone else.

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#21 PutzStew
July 08 2013, 06:35PM
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Ference is the leader that has been missing for the past 6 years. If MacT finishes getting out the Old Guard, and he is allowed too, Ference will be one of the guys the take the reins. He's been that guy most of his career.

I can't believe some of the comments I've had to read, of people bad mouthing him. Just proves that most Oilers fan have had too many loosing seasons and don't have any clue as to what it take to win.

Oh and to people slotting him as a 5-6 Dman, give your head a shake. He was in the top 4, on a Stanley cup finalist team, less then a month ago. If the can play there, what in the world make you think he can't do it here.

As I said too many fans that don't have a clue what a winner looks like.

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#22 Rob...
July 08 2013, 07:46PM
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In the interview with Horcoff he sounded like he still hadn't come to terms with the 'new NHL' where veterans weren't just automatically handed their spot on the first or second line. Luckily for Ference, his young competition has a lot of experience to gain before they're a threat to him.

Oh, and the South Park episode on the loud biker gang was absolute gold.

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#23 madjam
July 08 2013, 07:57PM
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Ference brings every element MacT. wants from his players , and priority team play . He's a solid choice(one of MacT. first choices in free agency - medium risk high reward) and his new contact is reasonable if he is able to continue playing well . Getting a UFA here is costly to begin with . The upside is , even with that raise , will he not be as effective or more so than Smid and his contract in comparison ? I believe there is a good chance it will . If he plays as well as or better than Smid , then it is still a value contract with high reward written all over it .

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#24 DSF
July 08 2013, 08:34PM
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For those of you thinking Smid is hard to replace, he was just replaced by Andrew Ference.

You can never have enough bottom 4 defensemen.

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#25 Larry
July 08 2013, 08:53PM
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Arnie Johnson

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#26 Larry
July 08 2013, 08:53PM
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Arnie Johnson

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#27 madjam
July 08 2013, 09:07PM
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DSF wrote:

For those of you thinking Smid is hard to replace, he was just replaced by Andrew Ference.

You can never have enough bottom 4 defensemen.

Seeing as you also like Perron (1year and 3 months older than Gagner ) how would you also like to try adding his old centerman M.A.Cliche from L.A. and Manchester of the AHL . As I remember Cliché did only play portion of one game in finals due to injury . Perron carried that club . Cliché is really improving and should be close to cracking L.A. lineup . I'd like to see them reunite here .

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#28 merfer
July 08 2013, 09:08PM
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He is the next Jason Smith for this team. Gator #2

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#29 madjam
July 08 2013, 09:53PM
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merfer wrote:

He is the next Jason Smith for this team. Gator #2

Might be a close analogy , as might Steve Staios . If he plays like they did in most years for us, then that's a plus.

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#30 DSF
July 08 2013, 10:21PM
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merfer wrote:

He is the next Jason Smith for this team. Gator #2

Jason Smith retired when he was 35.

Ference will be 35 in February and has another 3 years and a NMC in his contract.

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#31 Larry
July 09 2013, 02:04AM
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Arnie Johnson

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#32 Truth
July 09 2013, 09:53AM
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book¡e wrote:

First, its not true, but ever if it were, its not worth it. A few annoying man children lost to protect the rest of the world from having to put up with that crap would be worth it.

I used to ride a lot and never needed to annoy the rest of the world doing so. It's childish.

Funny. Annoying = noticable. Usually those who are against loud pipes are the type that wear the bright green jackets to be more visible. If one is effective so is the other. Doesn't mean you have to drive like a jackass in residential areas though. Anyways,

I'm a fan of the Ference signing. A top 4D on a perennial cup contender is a welcome sight on a team that did not have 6 healthy NHL defencemen last season. The Oilers could still use a bonafide top 2, but I think we'll have to wait for one to emerge from within the system (hopefully).

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#33 Jon
July 09 2013, 12:43PM
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Interesting how similar the answers to what kind of player is hard to play against is between Ference here and Horcoff in the other ON article. I hope our young guys develop that relentlessness.

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#34 oilerman53
July 09 2013, 06:30PM
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This is a guy who helped a six man unit completely shut down a team stacked with Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Neal, Iginla, Letang and Morrow. Helped hold Pittsburgh to pretty much zero offense in the East Final. If "this" team can't use him then who can?

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