Melrose Free Press

By Christopher Hurley

Nov. 4, 2010

Under normal circumstances, a trip to the hospital is not an excursion Andrew Ference and Brad Marchand would enjoy.

But the Boston Bruins hockey players were more than ready to make a special exception Monday afternoon.

Fresh off a morning practice at the TD Garden, the players took time out of their busy schedule to visit Melrose-Wakefield Hospital Nov. 1. The pair had a guided tour, meeting several members of the staff as well as visiting a number of patients.

“The Boston-area has always been great going out into the community,” Ference said. “Everybody here loves hockey. Everybody has a story about hockey, whether they played it or grew up watching it when the Bruins were winning their Stanley Cups. It’s just a fun place to come out, because everybody really loves hockey and are always excited about the Bruins.”

Hallmark Health, a major league provider of quality and advanced community healthcare, recently joined forces with the hockey stars as the official Healthcare Partner of the Boston Bruins.

The partnership is a natural fit for both Hallmark Health and the team. The local healthcare provider’s orthopedic surgeons and premier Bone and Joint Program provide advanced care, treating orthopedic injuries and disease in people of all ages, including those suffering from sports-related injuries.

“Obviously we’re well supported in the community with corporate sponsorships and at hospitals, so it’s nice to make a few trips here and visit the doctors and some of the patients and help give back as much as we can,” Ference said. “I think it’s important as players and as an organization. We realize how much hospitals like Melrose-Wakefield and Hallmark Health are helping our team out.”

A 13-year NHL veteran, Ference is entering his fifth season with the Bruins, after coming over in a multi-player trade from Calgary in 2007. The 5-foot-11, 189-pound defenseman has battled his fair share of injuries over the course of his career and knows how important it is to maintain a healthy outlook.

Off the ice, Ference has a deep interest in environmental issues. He recently spearheaded the NHLPA Carbon Neutral Challenge, with players offsetting carbon emissions produced through their hockey-related travel with Gold Standard Credits, which puts money back in renewable energy products. He also served as spokesman for the MBTA in encouraging the use of public transportation.

Marchand is entering his third pro campaign and is looking to play his first full NHL season in Boston. The 5-foot-9, 183-pound rookie winger has added plenty of grit to the Bruins fourth line, adding an agitating presence to the lineup.

Despite their tenacious nature on the ice, however, the two Bruins were nothing but cordial to their hometown fans during their hospital visit. The pair signed autographs for over an hour and a half.

There’s been plenty of buzz surrounding this year’s Bruins squad, which has gotten off to an impressive 6-2 start to open the season. Ference and his squad have continued to gain a tremendous groundswell of support from their hometown fans.

“A lot of that excitement and some of those old memories are being stoked again with the way the team is playing,” Ference said. “It definitely makes it more fun.”

And judging by the players’ warm reception, it’s evident the expectations for the team are high. That buzz hasn’t been lost on the players.

“Everybody knows that there is an opportunity to have a real successful year,” Ference said. “Every team always has hope, but when you really have a team that has a little extra  something’s there. I think everybody can feel it and have seen it develop over the last couple of years.

“People are excited about us trying to emulate our counterparts in baseball, basketball and football,” he added. “It’s kind of like, ‘All right, it’s you’re turn, boys. Get on it.’”

Ference and the Bruins appear more than willing to oblige.

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