Andrew Ference’s seven seasons in Boston had seen the Bruins go from afterthought to main attraction in the city, as he witnessed a rebuilding of the brand, the team, and the culture, culminating in the 2011 Stanley Cup.
Ference returned on Saturday to a standing ovation at 12:45 of the first period, appropriate for the leadership he showed and the changes he helped bring about with the Bruins.
As a tribute video played on the Jumbotron, the TD Garden got louder and louder, and Ference, wearing the Oilers’ “C,” gave a wave from the bench as his new teammates also stood.
After the game, Ference said of the tribute, “It was nicer than the game.”
Ference was on the ice for all of the goals the Oilers allowed in their 4-0 loss to the Bruins.
Ference’s departure from Boston after last season was rare, in the way it was handled by both player and team, and it allowed him to come back without mixed feelings on his part or the part of Bruins fans.
“I realize how fortunate I am to leave under those circumstances,” Ference said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys over the course of their careers that get traded at the drop of a hat and they’re packed up and gone the next day and don’t really get a chance to have a long, drawn-out goodbye like I did.
“It’s been as fairy-tale as it gets in the sports world from a player’s perspective of how to go to a different city and a leave a city, but be able to know you can come back to kind of open arms.”
Having been cleared to play two days ago after missing three games because of concussion symptoms, Ference said that Oilers coach Dallas Eakins would have had to answer to his wife had the defenseman not been back in the lineup against the Bruins.
With the Oilers getting into town Thursday night, Ference was able to bring his family and see some friends.
“I obviously have a special place in our lives for everything that happened here with Boston,” Ference said. “I think that a lot of people will appreciate that. It’s not like I would have a whole lot of highlights or anything like that with great goals — I think people appreciate what I was part of with the community and stuff like that.”
That’s what Ference has been trying to build with the Oilers, a young, talented team that sits at the bottom of the Western Conference.
“There’s a lot of similarities obviously to the situation we’re in now,” Ference said. “From a pure hockey perspective, you realize how much hard work it takes to build that. It doesn’t just happen by wanting it to happen, so kind of taking some of the ideas and some of the blueprint from what I experienced here.
“You can’t just kind of carbon copy it onto a different team; it doesn’t really work like that. But there’s certain parts of it that have helped a lot, and at least you hope that that process kind of takes hold in the course of two, three years that you have and is something you can look back on and can say we’ve helped build that foundation and bring it up to where it should be.”
Chara leaving early
Coach Claude Julien confirmed that Zdeno Chara will miss two games this week in order to travel early to Sochi, Russia, to be the flag bearer for Slovakia at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics. While Julien was not yet sure of Chara’s travel schedule, he will miss Thursday’s game in St. Louis and Saturday’s home game against Ottawa.
“For what this guy has done for our organization and the honor that it represents to carry the flag for your country, how can you not support that opportunity?” Julien said.
Asked if there’s a benefit to a little extra rest for the Bruins’ captain, Julien said, “Those two games might give him some rest for the Olympics, but by the time he comes back from the Olympics I’m sure he’s going to be tired, they’re going to utilize him a lot.
“So this is where I have to come in and help him out in his recovery and make sure we have a well-rested player by the end of the year, and that won’t be easy with 17 games in 31 days in March.”
Chara’s absence could make Adam McQuaid’s status even more important. McQuaid has not skated with the team since suffering a leg injury Jan. 19 at Chicago. He has been working out for about four days and has been “progressing well,” according to Julien. “We have to make a smart decision on his case because we don’t want to lose him again for this amount of time,” Julien added. And while keeping him off the ice until after the Olympic break would give him extra time to heal, that doesn’t mean it will happen. “If he’s 100 percent, he’s going to go,” Julien said. “We’ve always said that there’s no use holding a guy back if he’s 100 percent. But there’s no doubt if he’s not quite there yet, then the next two weeks will be really useful for him.” . . . The Bruins have won their last 12 meetings against the Oilers, their longest current winning streak against any opponent . . . Shawn Thornton squared off against Luke Gazdic in the first period. It was only Thornton’s second fight since returning from his suspension. He remained off the ice for the rest of the period, but returned to start the second.Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.