April 25, 2012

The story behind the Boston Bruins challenge coin

By Kirk Luedeke

Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference is the team's original thinker when it comes to building strong bonds and unity, as evidenced by the "Jacket" in 2011 and "chain" in 2012. However, one tradition Ference established that few knew about until the team came to Washington for the playoffs was the creation of the Boston Bruins challenge coin

After visiting an Army friend assigned to the 3rd Ranger Battalion at Fort Benning, Ga. over the summer, he was given a Ranger coin, sparking an inspiration for Ference to adopt a similar tradition for the Bruins.

Challenge coins are a long standing tradition in the U.S. military. They are custom-designed and made normally by unit command teams at the battalion level and above and awarded to troops who distinguish themselves in a variety of ways.

Coins are often times some of the most coveted items in a formation, many times preferred over an official award for service or achievement because commanders and senior noncommissioned officers control their distribution. Once presented with a unit coin, the soldier is expected to have it on him or her at all times, because one who cannot produce his or her coin is then responsible for buying the drinks.

Seeing the value in the idea and esprit de corps behind the challenge coin, Ference came up with a design while the team was in training camp last September and had B's challenge coins produced on his own.

The dominant side has the Bruins spoked-B with the inscription "Old Time Hockey" and "Since 1924" on the top and bottom. Engraved on the coin's side are the phrases: "Forever A Bruin" and "Boston Pride".

The back side of the coin has the City of Boston seal and motto with the Latin words: Sicut patribus sit Deus nobis, "As God with our fathers so may He be with us". Below the seal, each Bruin's uniform number is engraved on a scroll, marking that coin as unique and the player's own.

Ference awarded the coins to all members of the 2011 Stanley Cup championship squad, then developed informal rules awarding them to new members of the team after a period of service to the club. For rookies, Ference told New England Hockey Journal, they did not receive their Bruins coin until they paid for their first team dinner, something the team has rookies wait a period of several months before doing.

Kirk Luedeke can be reached at kluedeke@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kluedeke29.