Bostonbruins.com – Every NHL player remembers the life-changing experience of the NHL Entry Draft, whether he was a teenage phenomenon headlining the nationally televised event, or watching from home with his family like Andrew Ference.
“[When] I got a phone call about getting drafted I was watching some movie – probably like the Goonies or something,” Ference said of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. “I was just hanging out with my sister and my agent called me and said that I got drafted to Pittsburgh in the 8th round.”
The Draft was held in Pittsburgh when Ference was selected with the 208th overall pick, in the same city where the 2012 NHL Entry Draft will be held this Friday and Saturday.
However, Ference chose not to attend the '97 Draft in person.
“I wasn’t rated going into the Draft or anything like that,” Ference said. “So there was pretty much no point of me going.”
He recalled receiving that phone call every young player dreams about, when his agent informed him that the Penguins had selected him.
“I was ecstatic.”
For Ference, being drafted by Pittsburgh was particularly special.
“I had Mario [Lemieux]’s jersey, and [they were] one of my favorite teams. So for me, I was pretty proud.”
Although Ference wasn’t at the draft, it didn’t put a damper on the celebration.
“I did get a jersey from the draft, you know the standard Pittsburgh one, but I had to build my own little stage at home and all that,” Ference said, laughing about his unique experience.
Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli spoke about the management side of drafting in the late rounds.
“Usually what happens is, you put a player there that, ideally, if you get in the seventh, that’s great, but maybe he’s a fifth rounder,” Chiarelli said. “So you have to really look long and hard as to that player and the attributes of that player, and so you come up with these clusters, and then at the end of the year, you make your list around these clusters.”
Ference, who was on the other side of draft day uncertainty, clearly caught someone’s eye in the Pittsburgh organization.
“Just to know I had a foot in the door was a pretty awesome feeling,” Ference said.
Chiarelli also touched on the communication between scouts and management on drafting late players with high potential.
“We tell our scouts, ‘Give me your sleeper and give me your list of sleepers.’”
Ference has developed into a solid presence on the blue line throughout his career, making heavy contributions since being traded to the Bruins in 2007.
B's fans may remember the 1997 draft for the first round acquisitions of Sergei Samsonov and Joe Thornton, but there was another Thornton taken late in the same draft who played alongside Ference.
In 2007, the Bruins signed forward Shawn Thornton, who was originally taken in the 1997 Entry Draft by Toronto with the 190th pick, just 18 spots ahead of Ference.
Despite being considered “sleepers” when taken in the late rounds in 1997, they certainly weren’t dreaming when Ference and Thornton personally exchanged the Stanley Cup during the hoisting ceremony last June.