Boston welcomes Andrew Ference

BOSTON -- Andrew Ference received the reception he deserved.

The Edmonton Oilers captain and former Bruins defenseman returned to Boston for the first time since leaving as a free agent last summer. Unfortunately for Ference, his return was overshadowed by the Bruins' 4-0 win over the Oilers on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.

During a television timeout in the first period, the Bruins honored Ference with a video tribute. The 17,565 in attendance gave him a standing ovation and he acknowledged it with a wave of his stick. Ference spent seven seasons in Boston and helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011.

"It was nicer than the game," Ference said of the tribute. "Obviously very well treated by the organization and the city while I was here and while I left and throughout this year too. It's obviously a tremendous hockey city and the organization has been nothing but great to me so that's very, very special."

Ference returned to game action Saturday after missing the last three games with a concussion.

Before the game he said he received medical clearance a few days ago and feels good.

After the 2012-13 season, which ended with a loss in the Stanley Cup finals to the Chicago Blackhawks, Ference knew he would not re-sign with Boston, not because the team didn't want him, but that due to the salary cap the Bruins couldn't afford him.

During the team's exit meetings, general manager Peter Chiarelli met with Ference and informed the veteran he would not be returning to Boston.

"I said it when I left too, I was fortunate to leave under those kind of circumstances. I've seen a lot of guys over the course of their careers that get traded at the drop of a hat and they pack up and are gone the next day," Ference said. "They don't get really a chance to have a long, drawn-out goodbye like I did. When I was told I wasn't going to come back here, it was under the best terms with Peter and the team. They were happy with what I did and I was happy with what they did, which is great.

"Then I had a bunch of time to see some friends and spend some time with people here. That's special. It's been about as fairy tale as it gets in the sports world as far as leaving a city and going to a city and knowing you can come back to open arms."

Ference signed with his hometown team during the summer and landed a four-year deal worth $13 million. He was named captain of the team during training camp.

The Oilers arrived in town Thursday, so Ference had some time to catch up with friends. He brought his family with him on this trip.

"That's why I have family, so I'll get some cheers, at least," he said. "Obviously it'll have a special place in our lives for everything that happened here with Boston. It's not like I'll have a whole lot of highlights or anything like that, with great goals or anything like that. But I think people will appreciate what we were a part of and being in the community and stuff like that.

"I think even since I left, people will send me messages from Boston all the time, so I think the feeling is mutual with how great we knew each other."