John Bowie "Fergy" Ferguson Sr. - Born September 5, 1938 in Vancouver, British Columbia – Died July 14, 2007 in Windsor, Ontario was a Canadian ice Hockey left winger, coach, general manager and executive.
Ferguson was born in a house on Clark Drive in Vancouver's tough east side. His father died when he was 10. All his spare time was at the PNE grounds with his buddies, picking up odd jobs at the Hasting Park racetrack and hanging around the nearby Forum ice rink.
Ferguson got his first pair of Hockey skates when he was 14. They were used and 2 sizes too big, but he made the local bantam team within a month of skating.
Ferguson had a job scraping the ice at the Forum after the figure skaters in the early morning before school and then later in the day he would return with his buddies to scrape the ice again. He earned about $15 a week, along with free skating at the Forum.
Ferguson spent countless hours watching the Western Hockey League / WHL Vancouver Canucks at practice. Andy Bathgate became his favourite player and role model. By the 1954-55 season, Ferguson became the team's stick-boy.
Ferguson was also playing lacrosse in the summer, first as a goaltender for the Vancouver Rockies' junior lacrosse club and later as a forward with the Nanaimo Timbermen. He was named the 1963 Inter-City Lacrosse League MVP with 52 goals and 42 assists, In his 60 games over two seasons with Nanaimo, he accumulated 235 minutes in penalties.
Ferguson, now 18 years old, started his junior Hockey in Western Canada, with the Melville Millionaires of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League / SJHL in the 1956–57 season and was the SJHL scoring leader in the 1958-59 season with 32 goals and 34 assists.
Ferguson turned pro with the Fort Wayne Komets of the International Hockey League / IHL for the 1959-60 season, scoring 32 goals, 33 assists in the regular season, helping them win the Fred A. Huber Trophy with the most points in the IHL (102) and then helped the Komets reach the 1960 Turner Cup finals, losing in 7 games to St. Paul Saints.
Ferguson also had his first pro season with over 100 penalty minutes (126) during the season, something that would be a hallmark of his career, as he never had less then 117 penalty minutes in any pro season.
Ferguson then joined the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League / AHL for the 1960-61 season, playing there for 3 seasons before the Montreal Canadiens purchased his contract from Cleveland.
Ferguson vowed to be "the meanest, rottenest, most miserable cuss ever to play in the NHL"..........upon his retirement Ferguson set Canadiens’ club records for the highest number of penalty minutes in a single season and the highest number of career penalty minutes.
Ferguson then joined the Montreal Canadiens as an "enforcer" to protect captain Jean Beliveau from aggressive defenders for the start of the 1963-64 NHL season, and would finish his playing career as a legend for the Canadiens.
Montreal had recruited the fierce forward because they felt the team lacked toughness, and John Ferguson delivered in spades, as merely 12 seconds into his first NHL game, opening night for the NHL at Boston Garden, he was in a fight with Ted Green of the Boston Bruins; Ferguson won the fight. He also scored his 1st NHL goal vs Eddie Johnston at 9:56 of the 1st period. He had 2 goals in the game and 1 assist in a 4-4 tie.
Ferguson served notice that there was a new cop on the beat. No longer would opponents be permitted to take liberties with the Montreal Canadiens’ star players. "Fergy" quickly became the most feared man in the NHL, retaining the distinction until his retirement eight years later.
“Fergy” had but one mission on the ice: to help carry the Canadiens to victory. A lot of men have claimed that they would go through a wall for their team. In Ferguson’s case, it was no exaggeration. Strong, skilled, canny, fearless and mean, Ferguson neither expected nor gave any quarter.
Hockey was a war for Ferguson and he put every weapon at his disposal towards emerging victorious. With intensity and pugilistic ability reminiscent of Eddie Shore, Ferguson dropped his gloves and regularly administered punishment to those who stepped across the line in their dealings with his teammates. It was not unheard of for him to stage the occasional pre-emptive strike, erasing the line completely.
"Everyone knew what he stood for during his eight seasons with the team … how he felt, what he thought, liked, loved and hated. What he loved was to win. Losing was what he hated. There was nothing complicated about his game. It was hit first, ask no questions later. He played to inflict pain … to intimidate. No exceptions. Opposing players were fair game. If he happened to be a goaltender, tough!"
-- Red Fisher, Montreal Gazette columnist, on John Ferguson
Hostilities extended well beyond the limits imposed by the game clock. He walked out of restaurants rather than breathe the same air as the enemy, and legend has it, he left a restaurant in Toronto.... his steak still on the grill, when Eddie Shack walked in. He crossed the street rather than cross paths with opponents, and skipped golf tournaments or Hockey schools that included players other than Canadiens. While other players were beginning to socialize, if only in the offseason, with men who wore different uniforms but Ferguson steadfastly refused to fraternize.
But he had his light moments, too, especially enjoying his notoriety in Toronto.
"I'd skate past the Toronto bench and yell, 'C'mon, Punch [coach Imlach], send your next fighter out. Gimme the best you got,' " Fergy said.
"I'd go into the Toronto Stock Exchange and look down at the traders on the floor and get 'em going. They'd see me, a Canadien, giving it to 'em from upstairs and they'd get really worked up, booing and hooting at me. Every time we played there, I'd go to the stock exchange and get the boys going. You know ... just for fun."
Behind the mayhem and fun he had, was an intelligence. Hockey's toughest player was possibly the smartest.
Ferguson was also a potential offensive threat. Playing on a line with Beliveau, Ferguson led all NHL rookies in scoring (18 goals) in his first season and finished as runner-up for Calder Trophy in 1963–64. He had his best season point wise in 1968-69, scoring 29 goals (23 assists), with a plus-30 rating, along with a career high 185 penalty minutes. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound left-winger also scored the 1969 Stanley Cup-winning goal vs Glenn Hall of the St. Louis Blues at 3:02 of the 3rd period.
Ferguson scored 15 or more goals in four of his first five seasons and in 85 post-season games, Ferguson scored 20 goals and 18 assists and a whopping 260 penalty minutes..
Ferguson played in the 1965 NHL All-Star Game and the historic 1967 NHL All-Star game, which was the first one played at mid season.....on January 18 at The Forum in Montreal. Fergy as he was now known, to the delight of a Forum crowd of 14,284 was penalized, he had knocked Ullman to the ice with a gloved punch to the face.
"Ullman slashed me behind the goal and broke my stick," said the cantankerous Ferguson, who scored twice for the Canadiens, Henri Richard adding the other. "Then I hit him with a good shoulder check and he cross-checked me under the chin. So I just zinged him one, right on the nose."
Fergy also scored 2 goals in the 1967 NHL All-Star game, which ended in a 3-0 win for Montreal, and still the only NHL All-Star game to have a shutout in history. The 1967 game was also the final one played before the NHL expanded from six to 12 teams for the 1967-68 season and was telecast in Canada by CTV and various stations in the USA.
During his playing career, Ferguson won the Stanley Cup five times: in 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, and 1971, and always a team leader in penalties during their playoffs.
He also won the Prince of Wales Trophy 3 times with Montreal. First one as NHL Regular Season Champions 1966 and the other 2 as NHL East Division Regular Season Champions in 1968 and 1969.
The 1971 playoffs marked the end of an era for the Canadiens. A grueling 7 game series against the Black Hawks was capped by a tense 3-2 victory in the final contest in Chicago. Beliveau announced his retirement after Game 7 and Ferguson sat next to him on the plane back to Montreal. By Beliveau's account, the tough guy had tears in his eyes and told him: "I can't do it anymore. I think I'm going to retire with you."
It was said that his unexpected retirement in 1971 caused problems for the Canadiens, who then started getting roughed up by other teams. Rumours persisted that General Manager Sam Pollock wanted to bring him out of retirement.
In 1972, he became the assistant coach to Harry Sinden of Team Canada who defeated the Soviet team in the Summit Series. Ferguson gained some notoriety because he supposedly asked Bobby Clarke to take out Soviet star Valeri Kharlamov with a tap to the latter's ankle. Ferguson later justified his orders saying "that guy is killing us."
In the years to follow, he became the head coach and later general manager of the New York Rangers. He stopped coaching in 1977, and was fired as general manager in 1978, at which time he became the General Manager of the Winnipeg Jets of the World Hockey Association and, starting in 1979, the National Hockey League. Ironically he had lured Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson away from the Winnipeg Jets in 1978 to the New York Rangers. Both were considered to be the Jets' best players, and among the best in the WHA as a whole.
After a stint in the Ottawa Senators’ front office in the early 1990s, Ferguson moved on to a scouting role with the San Jose Sharks, and worked with the club right up until his last days.
In his 1994 autobiography "My Life In Hockey," Béliveau called Ferguson "the most formidable player of the decade (1960s) and possibly in the Canadiens' history. ...
John Ferguson was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 1978.
John Ferguson was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2016.