Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference lamented the length of the NHL lockout while defending the players’ negotiating stance during an interview with WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan show Monday.
“I’m definitely relieved in many ways,” said Ference about the end of the dispute. “I’m relieved because I saw how close it came from both sides to pulling the plug on the season. I can’t possibly imagine what another lost year would have done to our sport.”
Ference was in the room when a deal got done early Sunday. He said negotiations broke off into smaller groups, and that the final moments of coming to an agreement were not as dramatic as you might expect them to be.
“Everybody kind of looked at each other for a couple seconds and that was it,” said Ference.
Much damage has already been done as the lockout dragged on into January, but Ference said as a player he had to defend his rights. He said he was happy with the decision of the union to hire Donald Fehr as its executive director, calling it “the best decision we could have possibly made” despite the final collective bargaining agreement offering several concessions to NHL ownership.
“You can sit there and paint a perfect picture for yourself on what a great CBA looks like,” said Ference. “But at the end of the day you have to realize that they’re the owners. They’re running the sport and they’re running their business. They have a lot of leverage.”
Ference said the “nuclear option”, of blowing up the season, wasn’t worth it to most players. He acknowledged that the lockout dragged on too long.
“We hear from fans who say ‘Just start playing already.,’” said Ference. “But even up until a couple days ago, if we take the deal we’re basically selling out a lot of young guys.”
On fan reaction, Ference said, “It’ll vary for sure. Everybody gets it, but the process sucks. Everything is negative about your sport. All you hear and read about is the positioning of either side. It just leaves a sour taste in everybody’s mouth. I think everybody understands that there’s a business side that has to get done, but I don’t think there’s an appreciation for the details of the agreement.
“Everyone understands that we have to go out there and put a good product out and not pretend this wasn’t awful. Everybody knows it was awful.”
Ference said he did not think goalie Tim Thomas would be back with the Bruins this season.
“Yeah, I don’t think anybody expects him to be back at all,” he said.