Boston Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference is content with being fined US$2,500 by the NHL on Friday for an obscene gesture toward Montreal fans that he says was unintentional.
Ference raised the middle finger of his left glove after his goal cut the Canadiens' lead to 3-2 midway through the second period Thursday night. The Bruins won 5-4 in overtime to even the series at 2. Game 5 is in Boston on Saturday night.
"I was pumping my fist," Ference said Friday. "I'm not giving anybody the bird or anything like that. (It was) an unintentional bird that I obviously apologized for. It wasn't meant to insult anybody, especially a whole row of cameras in the Bell Centre and the fans sitting there."
Boston coach Claude Julien stood by him.
"His comments were pretty clear," Julien said. "My job is to support and believe your player and that's what I'm going to do. And I think he's a big boy. He's capable of handling himself and he's giving money to charity."
Montreal goalie Carey Price was more skeptical about Ference's explanation.
"Come on, man," he said. "I'm sure he feels shame. ... It's over now. I'm over it."
And, Price said, "It's pretty funny. I have some stuff out there that I'm not very proud of either."
Ference spoke Friday morning with Mike Murphy, the NHL's senior vice-president of hockey operations. League disciplinarian Colin Campbell didn't handle the case because his son, Gregory, plays for the Bruins. The fine is the maximum allowed under NHL rules for such a gesture.
"A fine is acceptable," Ference said. "I had a good talk with him this morning."
His gesture, he said, "was definitely not intentional. It was not something where I was trying to inflame anybody or do anything rude so, of course, I'm happy that there's no suspension."
With Game 5 coming up, Montreal coach Jacques Martin had more pressing concerns.
"I have enough to worry about," he said. "I think that's the league's business. My time, my responsibility is to get our team ready for (Saturday) night."