Inexcusably, I failed to mention the late, great John Ferguson during all the Winnipeg hoopla of the past few days, and I’m bad and I know it. Because John Ferguson, the ex-Hab, ex-ornery on-ice policeman, was extremely vital in the growth of the Winnipeg Jets, and for him to witness the return of his Jets in a game against his Montreal Canadiens would have made his heart soar, I’m sure.
You know who Fergy is. Called up to the Montreal Canadiens in 1963 to more or less make sure other teams left stars like Jean Beliveau alone, and 12 seconds into his very first NHL game, the new Hab beat up on Boston tough guy Ted Green, thus beginning his legend in record time. And although his legacy as a player is mostly of being a world-class enforcer, Fergy could also score goals, hovering around the 20-goal mark most of his 8 seasons when 20 goals then is comparable to 35 or even 40 now.
This is the kind of guy the Canadiens could use in this day and age. One who strikes fear in others, and scores as well.
Fergy was also assistant coach to Harry Sinden during the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series, which shows the respect he had after his playing days were over. I suppose the decision to tell Bobby Clarke to go out and tickle Valeri Kharlamov’a ankle with an axe chop might not have been the classiest move ever made, but it shows the intensity and passion for winning that Ferguson possessed, first as a player, and then as a guy in a sports jacket.
John Ferguson had been both coach and general manager in New York before coming over to the Winnipeg Jets, where he spent ten years as GM and then coach, and although he blundered by choosing tough guy Jimmy Mann as the Jets’ first pick in 1979, he was also responsible for bringing in young guns Thomas Steen, Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk and the great and future Hall member Teemu Selanne, thus creating what would become a very competitive and colourful team on the prairies over the years.
John passed away in 2007, and imagine how proud he would have been to see the Jets back in the fold again. And I know fighting is becoming less and less cool as the years go by, but have a look below at number 22, as he did his job in fine fashion for the Montreal Canadiens.