Tweets sent at 5 a.m. are rarely a good idea, but Andrew Ference's late-night message might go down as the most celebrated in NHL history. After being holed up for hours inside a conference room inside the Sofitel Hotel on Jan. 6, the 33-year-old Bruins defenseman signaled the end to the 113-day lockout with a thumbs-up symbol that indicated the NHL and NHLPA had finally reached an agreement. Ference, an involved union participant during labor talks, tells ESPNNewYork.com's Katie Strang about that memorable marathon session, his thoughts on the 2013 season and more in the New York Minute.
Strang: Considering your level of involvement in the CBA negotiation process, does it feel surreal to finally be playing hockey?
Ference: Not surreal. It just feels like a sigh of relief, just because you saw how it close it was to being another season gone. I think in the summertime there weren't too many people, fans or players alike, that would've thought the season as potentially in peril, so when it got to that point in negotiations where it could've actually gone sideways, especially for those of us who lost the last [season in 2004-05], it was a pretty scary thought.
I think right now it's … I don't want to say a sense of relief, because there was a deal there to be made, but it's just satisfaction that cooler heads prevailed and we found that middle ground finally that took so long to find.
Strang: Was there a point late in the process where you thought talks could still go sideways?
Ference: Not the last night. There were a couple nights before …
The last night, there was a deal getting done, for sure.
Strang: How did you know?
Ference: It was a buildup. It was the couple of days before, as well. The attitude and the mood changed. The mediator was … It was very obvious he was making more progress in getting everybody's real stances. I think it was just a combination of you got the feeling when you had some face-to-face [time] to, like I said, about the mediator. He would've been gone if he wasn't making real progress, so you could make a lot of reads off that as well. By the time we got into that last day, I think everybody was fairly certain that was going to be the last day, especially the longer it went. We obviously thought it was getting done.
Strang: Have you ever had that popular of a tweet as the one you sent that night? You know you scooped all of us, right?
Ference: (Laughing) Yeah, but unfairly. I mean, I was in the room. I don't do details though, that's your job. You guys get to analyze it.
Strang: Speaking of details, you're known as being one of the most environmentally conscious players in the game. Did you discuss any green initiatives at any point throughout the negotiations?
Ference: I kind of joked about it after. Actually, I've had great conversations with [commissioner Gary Bettman] the past couple of years and I've come a long way as a player in how you see how the business operates and how you see the people in charge, the commissioner's job. And so it's actually been … I think I had a different standpoint than a lot of guys because I've had some really good talks with him one-on-one about the game, but also those types of issues, the green initiatives and stuff. And as soon as they partnered up with the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), they've come a long way, and you could tell that he actually takes a lot of pride in that. So I'm happy with where they're going in that right now and individual teams are doing a lot. I don't know how you'd work that into a CBA, though.
Strang: Well, I heard that one day a topic during CBA talks was the type of hair gel used in locker rooms.
Ference: (Laughing) That's not in the CBA, but I know it was brought up about certain venues, the showers and towels. It's not written in, like, "Fluffy towels," but that's about as small an issue as it gets.
Strang: OK, let's talk hockey. What do you expect out of this Bruins team this season?
Ference: You always have confidence where you're at as a team because we have a really good one, but I think you have to have that type of confidence and know what your potential is. But also, I think that everybody in the league, especially the players, understand how little the difference is between the teams that are supposed to be really great and actually doing it because the league is so tight, it really is. The last-place team can come in and beat you on any given night. We've all been there, and I think this group has been around a long time so we sort of cut through all the B.S., trying to find what your teammates are all about. Everybody knows what each other's potential really should be at when they're playing well and, that being said, we know where we should be as a team, so there's a confidence in that way. There are no real unknowns. We've cut through that, and I think that gives teams confidence. But you can't just show up on any night. It's too tough of a league.
Strang: What sort of season do you expect for yourself?
Ference: Just winning. I've learned a long time ago that if you get on winning teams and get involved in the playoffs and can have success in the playoffs with your team, it makes everyone look good. There are a lot of guys that have long careers, they just do their jobs, contribute what they can to the team and those teams that have success, those guys play a long, long time. So I think that's a lot of how my career has turned out as well. It's not flashy or anything, not too many highlight reels, but I know what my job is, and I know what I do really well. I've been lucky that I've been with coaches and GMs that realize that as well. Just contribute to the team. That has and always will help me along the way.