Two words can sum up Andrew Ference's reaction to the NHL lockout settlement and his team's return to action for a shortened 2013 season: Relief and exhaustion.
The Bruins defenseman, who was heavily involved in the labor talks, appeared on WEEI on Monday (click HERE to listen) morning and described the final few days of negotiations in which a mediator was used "extensively" and players met in small groups to discuss the sticking points. He noted that the two sides even shook hands at the end.
"I'm definitely relieved, but in many ways happy to be back playing, happy that the fans can actually come back and watch some hockey and stop talking about boardroom chatter, and relieved also because I saw how close it came from both sides to pulling the plug on the season."
Ference wasn't exactly claiming victory for the players' union, and in fact noted that the players actually "won" little in the settlement. "Well, if you look at the CBA, the only thing better is the pension. And you get your own room on the road at a little younger age," he said. "So, in terms of winning, that's it. In today's world, I think, everybody understood it's concessionary bargaining. ... When compared to the old world that we played under, it was all give. And that was the only possible way to play hockey, to have hockey, and, in our view, to save the season, and I think to save the sport to a certain degree."
Here are some more of his thoughts:
On what he expects the mood of the NHL fan base will be:
"It will vary [from city to city] for sure. Everybody gets it, that this process sucks. Everything is negative around your sport, you know all you hear and read about is the spin or positioning of different sides. It just leaves a sour taste in everybody's mouth. ... We get how everybody was mad, and I guess all you can really do is not patronize them, and not just say thanks and hope it's alright. I think everybody understands we have to go out there and put a good product out and try to make people proud, and not pretend that this wasn't awful. Everybody knows it was awful."
On his expectations of the 48-game season:
"It will be crazy, definitely. I mean, it's just a concentration of games, and we're staying east the whole time, so you're always playing against your rivals. Which makes it great. ... It will be chaos, that first little bit of games, of teams doing worse than expected or better than expected ... so it will be interesting, for sure, from a fan's perspective just to see how this all shakes out. But definitely, you can see how the intensity level goes up, it has to go just sky-high, because every win or loss is that much more important."