Category Archives: John Ferguson .

Anne And Gordie

Gordie Howe was in Montreal for an Eaton’s appearance tour in the 1970’s, and while there he did a T.V. taping session with singer Anne Murray. The taping was at the Forum, and Anne wore Howe’s sweater while Howe wore John Ferguson’s.

Murray was quoted in Gerry Patterson’s book “Behind The Superstars” as saying to Howe, “This is my girlfriend’s coat and she wants you to touch it all over. But wait till I put it on.”

Howe playfully asked Patterson, “Hey, corporate coordinator, I’ve got Fergy’s sweater on. Is it okay if I attack her?”

Just some good, old-fashioned flirting.

Gerry Patterson, who passed away in 2005, ran a successful sports management team that looked after the affairs of Jean Beliveau, Howe, Guy Lafleur, Rusty Staub, Nancy Greene, and many others.

Anne and Gordie

Summit ’72 – Cournoyer

There was a strong contingent of Montreal Canadiens on Team Canada ’72 – Ken Dryden, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe, Frank and Pete Mahovlich, and Yvan Cournoyer, and all, in their own way, contributed mightily to the cause, including Dryden who struggled at times but showed enough to coaches Harry Sinden and John Ferguson to be called upon for game eight duty.

Serge Savard played in five games, never in a losing cause, and he went about his business with poise and steadiness, which must have rubbed off on his somewhat frazzled teammates in a big way. Pete Mahovlich killed penalties and scored a classic shorthanded beauty in game two in Toronto. Brother Frank only had one goal and one assist, but was a strong, experienced leader and great puck carrier with that long stride of his. Guy Lapointe played in seven games and did for Team Canada what he did for as a Hab – skate and carry the puck better than most, and equally important, was the definitive team guy who kept teammates loose. And being loose was crucial in a series like this, where stress was the order of the day.

But maybe it was Cournoyer who had the greatest impact of all.

Cournoyer played in all eight games of the series, one of only seven players who did, and managed three goals and two assists, which placed him behind only Phil Esposito, Paul Henderson, and Bobby Clarke in team points. And most importantly, it was he who provided plenty of fodder in the final game.

At 12:56 of the third period, Cournoyer tied the score at 5-5, but the red light didn’t go on. It was an obvious goal, everyone saw it, and eventually, after Alan Eagleson almost set the Cold War back ten years with his angry antics, the goal stood, and Canada had clawed their way back after being down 5-3 going into the third. So what a huge, historic goal it was from Yvan Cournoyer.

Then with the score tied and less than a minute to go, Cournoyer intercepted the puck at the far boards, near the Soviet blueline, and sent it across the ice to Henderson, who initially lost it until it came back out to him in front of the net from Phil Esposito. Henderson beat Tretiak with 34 seconds left on the clock, and the first into the arms of the jubilant Henderson was Yvan Cournoyer, with the two immortalized forever in an iconic photograph.

The most famous goal in Canadian hockey history, and our great Roadrunner was in on it in a big way.

Summit ’72 “Aftermath”

Immediately following their stunning game-eight victory, Team Canada had to hit the road to Prague to play the Czechoslovakian national team the next night. This should have been better thought out by Hockey Canada, with an escape clause written into the contract. The team was both emotionally and physically spent, and it was unfair to subject them to this. It was time to go home, not play a meaningless game. They also felt it might take some of the lustre off the Russian Series, and they had absolutely nothing to gain and much to lose.

But the Prague game had to go on whether the team wanted it to or not.

Czech-born Stan Mikita, who was sent to live with an aunt in Canada when he seven, was named captain of Team Canada on this night, which was a classy and loving touch from coach Harry Sinden and others. Mikita had played just two games during the Summit, but in Prague it was his night. He was king. His mom and brothers and sisters were at the game, and Stan was given a long standing ovation.

As far as the game went, Canada pulled another one out of that, as they had shown often recently, by tying the game at three with just four seconds remaining, when Serge Savard stuffed it home.

And then it was time to come home.

Fifteen years after the fact, Team Canada and the Soviets played two games in celebration of the Summit Series, in Ottawa and in Hamilton. I was at the Ottawa game, and I remember being disappointed that the Soviets didn’t wear the same type of sweater that they had worn originally. And although both teams had the majority of original players in their lineups, Canada added Bill Barber, Gordie Howe, Mike Walton, Reggie Leach, Jacques Lemaire, and Darryl Sittler to the squad.

Six players, three from each team, have passed away. Bill Goldsworthy in 1996, Gary Bergman in 2000, and Rick Martin in 2011. The Russian bear, Alexander “Rags” Ragulin passed in 2004, and fellow defenceman Valeri Vasiliev died recently, in April of 2012.

And of course the great Valeri Kharlamov, killed, along with his wife, in a car crash outside of Moscow in 1981.

The “Father of Russian Hockey” Anatoli Tarasov, who had to step aside for the Summit Series, passed away in 1995, and his successor Vsevolod Bobrov, who coached the ’72 squad, died in 1979. Bobrov’s bench assistant Boris Kulagin checked out in 1988.

Sadly, John Ferguson, who was a force to be reckoned with not only in 1972 but throughout his career on and off the ice, left us in 2007. Fergie stayed beside Harry Sinden throughout the pressure cooker, and was a true inspiration as assistant coach. Some folks, however, might not agree with that moment in time when he advised Bobby Clarke that maybe Kharlamov needed a tap on the ankle.

Foster Hewitt signed off permanently in 1985. Sure he butchered Yvan Cournoyer’s name in the beginning of the series, but he got it right as he went along, and he did a fine job of describing the games for us in his own Foster Hewittian-way. Foster was 69 years old, had come out of retirement to call this series, and what a way to cap off a 40-plus year career, one that included coming up with such iconic catch-phrases as “He shoots, he scores!” and “Henderson scores for Canada!”

Many of the Canadian and Russian players became friends over the years, although Boris Mikhailov still might not win any popularity contests.

And say what you want about Alan Eagleson, but without him, the Russians may have gotten their way way too often, and there might not have even been a series in the first place.. Eagleson took care of business, and was the guy who got it done off-ice. Unfortunately, Eagle was later discovered to have stolen from the players association and various clients, and ended up doing six months in prison for fraud and embezzlement. He was also kicked out of the Hockey Hall of Fame, which must have been a cruel blow for the disgraced lawyer and player agent.

But he was immeasurably important for the 1972 Summit Series.

Summit ’72 Game 6 – A Night To Win

And win they did, 3-2, with no help from German officials Franz Baader and Josef Kompalla , who seemed to love the idea of sending a parade of Canadians to the sin bin and were living proof that when it came to refereeing hockey games, Germany made great cars.

No matter. Team Canada allowed a Soviet goal, then scored three in a minute and a half to take control in all aspects. Even Ken Dryden played well and finally beat his nemesis Soviets for the first time since facing them years before as an amateur.

This game had finally given us a glimmer of hope. The team played with poise and passion, they came together and played like they knew they could, and Paul Henderson, in the series of his life, scored the winner on a long slap shot that surprised everyone from Vladivostok to Victoria.

One particular incident on this night must be mentioned. It was time to stop Valeri Kharlamov, and John Ferguson provided an ugly-yet-brutally effective solution. “I think he needs a tap on the ankle,” Fergy told Bobby Clarke, and Clarke proceeded to chop and crack the Soviet star’s ankle, rendering the Soviet star useless and out of the series until game eight, where he looked absolutely non-Kharlamovian. Not one of Team Canada’s finest moments, but at this point, it was win-at-all-costs, which I understand. Although this tactic underlined what many at home and abroad had screamed loud and hard about – that the Canadians were thugs and weren’t playing the game the way it should be played.

Of course, no one mentioned the Swedes’ stick work and diving in Stockholm, or the Soviets’ exaggerated theatrics and their own particular brand of whining. And critics made no heed of the off-ice nonsense regarding Canada’s steaks and cokes going missing, and phone calls in the middle of the night to their hotel rooms with no one on the other end. Frank Mahovlich became so unnerved by the fact that his room might be bugged that he checked under the carpet and discovered what he thought was a KGB bug. The Big M then unscrewed it and promptly heard a loud crash as he realized he’d unscrewed a ceiling light from the room below.

The series had transformed into a bizarre, stressful, and unreal game of cat and mouse, but most importantly for Team Canada and the nation behind them, the Soviets were beginning to show some important cracks. Team Canada felt this thing was far from over, and Phil Esposito, as focused now as any man could be, was leading the charge like no other could. Years later, Espo would even say that he wasn’t a violent man but he would have killed to win if it had come down to that.

Below, Bobby Clarke, Bill White, and Tony Esposito see the sights of Moscow with their wives, while John Ferguson inspects some Red Army soldiers.

Enjoy The Original Six In Splendid Quality

I don’t know how often this has ever been in circulation, but it’s one of most greatest ten minutes of hockey clips you’ll ever see.

It’s from 1967, the quality is sensational, like it was filmed today, and we see Jean Beliveau, as smooth as smooth can be, Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Jacques Laperriere, Terry Harper, Ralph Backstrom, Terry Sawchuk, and just about everybody else from that time, all from the old Montreal Forum with the pillars in the background.

It’s called Blades and Brass, is set to music of a Mexican brass band, and comes from the National Film Board of Canada. So just sit back and enjoy the Original Six at the old Montreal Forum, in perfect quality.

 

Fergy Left His Steak And Walked Out

To help take your mind off the wacky world of this year’s Habs, at least for a few minutes, I thought I’d mention a couple of tidbits about good old number 22, John Ferguson, that I found while re-reading my book Breakaway by Charles Wilkins.

First, an autograph I got from him in the mid-60’s.

Fergy was sitting in a restaurant with teammate Dick Duff, ready to tackle a steak, when Eddie Shack of the Leafs walked in. Duff, who had played with Shack in Toronto, struck up a conversation with his old friend. Fergy was so disgusted that a teammate would socialize with the enemy that he got up and walked out, leaving his uneaten steak.

Henri Richard was given the captaincy after Jean Beliveau retired, but Pocket Rocket wasn’t the Habs’ first choice to wear the C. It was Fergy. Fergy had decided to retire in 1971 and GM Sam Pollock offered him the honour of being captain if he would stay longer. But Sam was turned down.

John ended up resenting the Canadiens organization. He was in the hospital having surgery on a bone below his eye, a very serious operation, and he said that not once did a member of the team’s ownership, management, or coaching staff come to visit him. And only one them phoned – Toe Blake – but just once.

The Hall of Fame committee had Fergy’s name on the ballot and it went through, but for reasons unknown, they changed their minds and he was never inducted.

Ferguson was asked by Harry Sinden to play for Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series but declined. His reasoning was that there was so much talk about Bobby Hull not being able to play because the Golden Jet had bolted to the new WHA, he felt it would be too much of a distraction to accept the offer, considering he’d been retired for a year. He became assistant coach instead.

Ferguson laid a beating on Chicago’s Eric Nesterenko during the 1965 Stanley Cup finals that changed the momentum of the series, and caused Nesterenko to live with the memory of it for years to come. Nesterenko even became the subject of a novel “The Drubbing of Nesterenko” by Hanford Woods, and although the fight was an absolute disaster for the Black Hawk, it only added to the legend of Fergy.

Here’s the fight: