Andrew Ference spent the past seven seasons as a member of the Boston Bruins, helping the franchise to its sixth Stanley Cup championship in 2011. But after signing as a free agent this summer, Ference relocated to his hometown team, the Edmonton Oilers. Before the season started, Ference was named the captain of the club, joining a long line of legendary leaders for the franchise. And the defenseman didn’t just bring his talent on the ice back to Edmonton. Ference’s passion for the environment meant early "rise-and-shine" workouts for his new teammates as part of the November Project initiative, a free, public exercise group of which he was a part in Boston.
Kathryn Tappen: What is going to stand out if I go to an Oilers game?
Andrew Ference: I came to a lot of games as a kid. People don't just come to the game for entertainment. Every fan there is fully invested in how the team is playing. People feel like they have a real ownership in this team. It's a special event, and an intense hockey market where people love the games.
KT: How does the media frenzy compare from Boston to Edmonton?
AF: I've played in large markets my whole career, so I'm used to the attention. I enjoy playing in places where people and fans care about what you're doing on the ice. I've been spoiled playing in markets that care about hockey.
KT: You were active with November Project in Boston; have you brought that enthusiasm to Edmonton?
AF: The day I came from Boston to Edmonton I threw it out there, if anyone wanted to join us for one of our workouts. I wanted to see if we could get an Edmonton chapter started for November Project. We had about 20 people show up. A few weeks later we really got it going. We did it three days a week. Our top number was around 200 people. [Oilers coach] Dallas Eakins came out, and everyone ran hills. My sister is doing a lot of the organizing now, but it's established, that's for sure.
KT: How are you going to replicate the steps at Harvard Stadium?
AF: We have a killer set of stairs up the river valley. But a lot of the time when we work out it's dark, so it's hard to see.
KT: You'll have to get those flashlights for your head.
AF: We had an outdoor sports company here donate a bunch of lights to light up the stairs, so that was pretty cool.
KT: At age 34, you're one of the oldest Oilers.
AF: It's weird. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around how old I am. I have a fairly youthful attitude, so I don't feel too far removed from how some of the young guys are thinking or approaching the game.
KT: As a veteran on the team, will you be pulling any first-year tricks on your rookie head coach?
AF: (laughs) I think it might be a little early for that. Maybe we'll have a comfort level at some point. We're setting the tone now for this team to take the next step.
KT: What's life without Zdeno Chara on the blue line?
AF: It's weird leaving any of your teammates. I don't see the same faces anymore, but at the end of the day, we are all very similar.
KT: Why is it so important for you to take a stand for LGBT and human rights?
AF: It's one of those issues that is fairly black and white to me. There's right and then there's wrong. Excluding people is plain and simply wrong. The Burke family has done an amazing job giving hockey and players a voice for those issues. Guys quickly jump on board with organizations like You Can Play. I always think how awful I'd feel having a teammate who is really having a really tough time or had to hide something out of fear of being excluded from a team. It would be a terrible feeling. I am glad now that people have an outlet. The hockey community is an extended family, and we do the same for anyone in need.
KT: You're so active in the community and take a stand with many topics related to the environment and health. Do you have time for guilty pleasures?
AF: Those are my guilty pleasures. Things like November Project, the [NHL] Green initiatives in Boston, visiting some of the companies who are doing different things with their new technology, I really enjoy that kind of stuff. It’s been nice that I can incorporate those things into my guilty pleasures. I don't do it because it's an obligation. I selfishly do it because I really enjoy it. Between those things and having two young daughters, there's not a whole lot of time for anything else.
KT: Pink, the Dixie Chicks and the Canadian Finals Rodeo are all coming to Rexall Place in the next few weeks. Which of those events are you most likely to attend?
AF: Rodeo, for sure. We used to always go to the rodeo as kids. It was amazing. Small-town rodeos are the best. We used to sit in the stalls as the horses and bulls were being brought out. It was awesome. But I think we're on the road when this rodeo comes to Rexall.
KT: So you were kicked out of the TD Garden in Boston because of the circus, now you're kicked out of Rexall because of a rodeo.
AF: I'll take it. At least the rodeo is pretty tough.