A Louisville First – Defenseman Brad Ference Named Sher-Wood’s Player of the Week
Interview by: Jennifer McCarty
“Live and learn” could be Brad Ference’s motto. It’s no secret, Brad Ference has had his ups and downs this season. From a broken jaw at the beginning of the season, until this week’s Player of the Week award, it’s been a rough road. I got the opportunity to interview Ference this week on his views of the season up until now. The highs and lows tend to come at you when you least expect it and for this defenseman, he knows first hand.
Ference currently leads Louisville defensemen in point scoring with two goals, 14 assists for 16 points.
JM: How did you learn that you were the AHL’s Player of the Week and what was your reaction?
BF:Bob Hoffman from the Panther’s office called and told me. I didn’t expect it at all, but I was glad to hear the news.
JM:What’s brought on all of this offensive power lately?
BF:Well, I know that I have it in me to score and assist on plays. In 97-98 with Spokane I had nine goals and 29 assists for a 38-point season. It’s just taken awhile to relax and let it happen.
JM:What elements of your game are you focusing on at the moment to help get you back to Florida where you belong?
BF:Well, I figured out the secret just about three weeks ago. If I don’t focus too much on what is going on in Florida and just completely concentrate on what’s going on in Louisville, it makes my game more relaxed and there isn’t as much pressure involved with playing. I think that’s why I’ve been doing better offensively. They (Florida) are watching and as long as I work hard here, they will definitely notice down there.
JM:You are a different Brad Ference than you were last year at this time. Not so quick to jump into an altercation, etc. What have you learned over the past year?
BF:I guess the main factor is that I’ve learned when to take penalties and when not to. I have much more control over my emotions when I’m playing now than last year. It’s all about experience and learning as you go. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, and that’s ok as long as you use them as a learning opportunity so it doesn’t happen again.
JM:You even seem to deal with the referees better this year…have you learned an easier way to deal?
BF:Oh, definitely. One big thing that I’ve found is that if you don’t run your mouth and you just shut up and go to the box, the referees seem to respect you more for that and then maybe next time they’re more likely to cut you some slack and be more lenient.
JM:You’ve almost exploded offensively in the last couple of games, what’s that do for your confidence level?
BF:It just boosts it up so high. You know you’re capable and when you get the break you need, it all just falls into place after that. You get more of an edge and it lifts a lot of the pressure.
JM:Do you feel that after your broken jaw in the pre-season that things would have been different for you this season if you’d been started in the AHL rather than the NHL?
BF:Definitely. I felt that the first 10 or so games went pretty well in Florida, then things started declining from there. So, I got sent down to Louisville anyway. I hadn’t skated regularly for a while and then it was time to start the season and I think 10 games in Louisville would have gotten me more prepared for Florida. I definitely want to go back to Florida as soon as possible, but I just know Louisville and the AHL well and feel like it would have been easier to come back on that level.
JM:Do you feel that you’ve shown your offensive skill enough to possibly gain a double role as a defenseman/forward like Tetarenko or Ward have done?
BF:I absolutely think that I can be used in the power play one day for Florida. I’m on the penalty kill now but I can skate well enough and shoot well enough to have interchanging roles one day.
JM:The Panthers seem to have a pretty bad case of the “Sophomore Blues”. What do you attribute this season’s performance to?
BF:Well, there’s not one thing you can put your finger on. We have a really young team, a lot of rookies. That’s not necessarily it, but you notice that things are slowly starting to turn up and that the confidence is needed and we’re getting it. It’s just taken a really long time for this team to get into the groove.
JM:I have a question from a fan, Kelly Scullin, that they would like for me to ask: “As a team, is it difficult to keep any kind of team morale and consistency in play (i.e. offensive and defensive lines) with so many transactions between Florida, Louisville and Port Huron? Is it tough to keep your momentum when suddenly the line-up changes?
BF:Not really me personally. Since I’m a defenseman, I am always out on the ice with Brent Thompson. I don’t see too many new guys on my line. Now it’s a bit different with the forwards because they have to readjust and learn how to work with someone different. But, you can’t use that as an excuse. That’s just how this league works and we’re all going through the same changes constantly.
JM:Well, Brad, congratulations on your Player of the Week honors, you earned it. When will you receive the leather Sher-Wood jacket?
BF:Maybe at the next home game, we’ll see.
JM:Thanks and congratulations. We’ll be watching for you the next few games and I’m sure Florida will be too.
If you would like to send an E-mail to Brad Ference, he would love to hear from you!
Did you know…Travis Brigley and Brad Ference have the same agent? He must be proud of his 2 players. Why? For point scoring in February, Brigley leads the team with three goals, five assists, eight points and a +3 rating and Ference is right behind with one goal, six assists, seven points and a +5 rating.