TORONTO -- Former NHL player and general manager John
Ferguson Sr., died Saturday after a lengthy fight with prostate
cancer. He was 68.
Ferguson was 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.
Ferguson, the father of current Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson
Jr., went from being a tough guy on the ice to a powerful man in
the executive chair. He played eight NHL seasons from 1963-71, all
with the Montreal Canadiens, and was a Stanley Cup champion five
Ferguson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in September 2005,
and thought he had beaten the disease, but a recurrence took his
"My father battled cancer with the same spirit in which he
played the game of hockey," Ferguson Jr., 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.
"My father's spirit will continue to live on in all of us whose
lives he touched."
Ferguson was GM and coach of the New York Rangers for two
tumultuous years until 1978 and GM of the Winnipeg Jets, both in
the WHA and NHL, from 1979-88 -- briefly serving as coach. He was
the manager of Windsor Raceway between hockey jobs before becoming
director of player personnel for the Ottawa Senators from 1992-95.
Ferguson was a senior scout for the San Jose Sharks from 1995 until
"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."
And his determination was unmatched.
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.
"There was no more passionate competitor, as a player, as a
coach or as an executive, than John Ferguson," NHL commissioner
Gary Bettman said in a statement. "He was tough, he wanted the
best for his teams, his teammates and his players, and his country,
and would stop at nothing to try to help them win.
"His fight against cancer was every bit as fierce as his
competitive drive on and off the ice. The League has lost a great
Ferguson was more than just a bodyguard for Montreal's stars, but
because of his reputation as a tough-as-nails 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.
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
Ferguson scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 1969, capping a
season in which he had 29 goals and a plus-30 rating. The 5-foot-11,
190-pound left winger was a force in the playoffs. In 85 postseason
games, No. 22 scored 20 goals and assisted on 18 others. 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.
Ferguson was an assistant coach on Canada's team in the 1972
Summit Series. Standing behind the bench watching Valeri Kharlamov
fly around the ice, Ferguson frowned and said, "He's killing us."
Bobby Clarke then went out and slashed Kharlamov across an ankle,
thus limiting the Russian's effectiveness.
In addition to his son, Ferguson is survived by wife, Joan.