|Montreal Canadiens' John Ferguson hanging up his sweater after announcing his retirement. (1971 file/ap)|
John Ferguson Sr.; NHL star known for toughness; at 68
TORONTO -- Former NHL player and general manager John Ferguson Sr. died Saturday after a lengthy fight with prostate cancer. He was 68.
Mr. Ferguson was considered one of the toughest players to lace up skates in the NHL and remained a big part of the sport as a GM, coach, and scout at the highest level.
He played eight NHL seasons from 1963 to 1971, all with the Montreal Canadiens, and was a Stanley Cup champion five times. As an executive, he retained his reputation for being a powerful man .
Mr. Ferguson , whose son, John Jr., is general manager of the Maple Leafs, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in September 2005, but before it recurred he thought he had beaten the disease.
"My father battled cancer with the same spirit in which he played the game of hockey," his son said in a release. "He showed courage, strength, class, and tremendous character. He had deep appreciation for the support he'd received from so many people beginning with his initial diagnosis."
Mr. Ferguson was GM and coach of the New York Rangers for two tumultuous years until 1978 and GM of the Winnipeg Jets from 1979 to 1988, briefly serving as coach. He was manager of Windsor Raceway between hockey jobs before becoming director of player personnel for the Ottawa Senators from 1992 to '95, and was a senior scout for the San Jose Sharks from 1995 until his death.
"John Ferguson was one of the most beloved figures to ever represent the Sharks, as well as the entire National Hockey League," Sharks GM Doug Wilson said in a statement. "His sense of class, grace, and love of the game of hockey is legendary among those who were fortunate enough to know and work with him."
There was not a more determined player.
Mr. Ferguson, also a standout on the lacrosse field, would crash creases and drop the gloves when necessary. Along with his 145 goals -- an average of 18 a season -- and 158 assists, he amassed 1,214 penalty minutes in 500 regular-season games.
He was more than just a bodyguard for Montreal's stars, but because of his reputation as a combatant -- he got into his first fight 12 seconds into his first NHL game -- it is often forgotten that in his first season he led NHL rookies in scoring and was runner-up for rookie-of-the-year honors.
Mr. Ferguson scored two goals after fighting Ted Green in his first game and was regarded as hockey's unofficial heavyweight champion until he retired. He played much of his rookie season on a line with Jean Beliveau, who won the Hart Trophy as league MVP that year.
Mr. Ferguson scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 1969, capping a season in which he had 29 goals.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound left-winger was a force in the playoffs, too. In 85 postseason games, he scored 20 goals and assisted on 18 others. Mr. Ferguson, a two-time All-Star, once was dared to fight Canadian heavyweight boxing champion George Chuvalo. He was willing to enter the ring but the Canadiens wouldn't allow it.
In addition to his son, Mr. Ferguson leaves his wife, Joan.