BOSTON -- While the alternate captain rotation between Andrew Ference and Chris Kelly during home and road games this season wasn’t something many predicted around the Bruins, both veterans are well suited for the role.
Ference will wear the 'A' during home games in the first half of the year, and Chris Kelly during road games. Then halfway through the season, the two players will switch ihome and road duties. If either player is injured for any length of time, coach Claude Julien and his assistants reserve the right to bestow the 'A' on any of the other very worthy veteran leader-types in the B’s dressing room.
But for now it’s Ference and Kelly riding shotgun along with captain Zdeno Chara and permanent alternate captain Patrice Bergeron. And both players were understandably honored with the position.
For Ference it’s really been a building process over the last several years, and his simple acceptance of pretty much every player across nationalities, position on the ice, age and differing personalities makes him a natural choice.
In many ways it’s also about 43-year-old retired forward Mark Recchi, and imparting some of the knowledge passed on by the future Hall of Famer during his years in Boston.
“It’s definitely an honor, but I think the symbolism of [Kelly] and I sharing it is really right on,” said Ference. “It’s like we talked about all training camp when you asked about it: how do you pick? There are so many guys where you could probably put it on half of us and nobody would blink. We have a very good locker room.
“To have that [good locker room] and be selected to wear it . . . what do you say? Of course I’m honored to be wearing it.”
For Kelly it was a little bit trickier. His choice as a leader might have stunned those who don’t have a good grasp on the inner workings of the dressing room, but those around the team heard just how vocal the former Senators center started getting once the playoffs rolled around. Kelly quickly went from a gritty bottom-six forward on the stacked playoff team to a voice that was widely respected around the room – and also armed with a willingness to say whatever needed to be said un and down the lineup.
Kelly credited players like Daniel Alfredsson, Luke Richardson, Cory Stillman, Chris Phillips and Marty Lapointe as role models in Ottawa who really helped shape his leadership voice over the years.
“It’s a great honor. That letter could have gone to a lot of different guys in the locker room,” said Kelly, who tread lightly at first after only arriving in Boston last February. “We have a lot of leaders in here. Obviously when a team goes deep into the playoffs you learn a lot, and a lot of guys can really build up their leadership qualities. It was a surprise and a great honor.
“A new guy never wants to be the loud guy. There were times at first where I really wanted to say something, but I kept my comments to myself at first and let the guys get to know me first. I didn’t want to really want to over-talk because nobody likes the new loud guy. It was a little bit of a transition period, but I thought it was a good one.”
There is a functional usage for the letter on a hockey sweater when it comes to chatting with referees during play, but it’s much more about the symbolic commendation of leadership for players that have demonstrated it well in the past.
Kelly and Ference were at the top of list, so perhaps this year’s new letter-beaters shouldn’t have been quite as surprising as they were on first blush.