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Tailing the Komets

John Ferguson died Saturday night

John Ferguson, the first Komet to make it to the National Hockey League, died Saturday night at age 68 after a long battle with prostate cancer.

Ferguson came to the Komets in 1959 as a raw rookie left wing and quit playing in 1971 as one of hockey's greatest winners with five Stanley Cup rings.

In his book, ``Thunder and Lightning'' Ferguson wrote that ``This may sound hard to believe, but the Fort Wayne Komets were the toughest team I ever had to make, throughout my entire career. They had a lot of veterans and very few spots for a rookie to crack the lineup.''

Komets coach Ken Ullyot had wanted the forward ever since Ferguson had played against Ullyot's Prince Albert team in the Western Hockey League in the mid-1950s. Ferguson would later be known as perhaps the National Hockey League's toughest player ever, but he struggled mightily in the first half of the season in Fort Wayne with only two goals by Christmas.  He started playing much more physically in the second half and scored 30 goals as the Komets had their best season ever in 1959-60.

Ferguson spent only the one season in Fort Wayne, scoring 33 goals and 65 points with 126 penalty minutes. Then he moved to Cleveland of the American Hockey League for three seasons before joining the Canadiens in 1963.

Ullyot knew Ferguson would make it to the NHL.

``He was a very good student,'' Ullyot. ``He was strong and he stood out with his ability. He just needed to work on a few things.''

Though he was small by today's standards at 5-11, 190 pounds, Ferguson was also very tough, leading the NHL in fights twice early in his career.

``He never looked for a fight and never hit a guy dirty,'' Komets linemate Eddie Long said. ``He played the game first and then he fought. Everybody saw him fight once and left him alone. He really worked at the game.''

Ferguson used those skills for eight seasons to protect Montreal stars Jean Beliveau and Bernie Geoffrion, earning almost 1,500 penalty minutes in his career. He also scored 145 goals and 303 points in 500 NHL games. His highest penalty minute total for a season was 185 minutes, mid-range for today's most-penalized players.

After shocking everyone by retiring in 1971 at age 32, Ferguson later coached the New York Rangers for two seasons and became the general manager of the Winnipeg Jets.

Ferguson is survived by his wife Joan, son John who is general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and daughters Catherine, Chris and Joanne.

Posted in: Komets


Sun, 07/15/2007 - 12:53pm

I thought this guy dawned a Komet sweater, but I wasn't sure...

my thoughts and prayers go out to his family..

Tony E
Sun, 07/15/2007 - 1:56pm

A very sad day as the hockey world has lost one of its good people.

Sun, 07/15/2007 - 7:59pm

the guy who showed the future ks how to be a komet. dont hit dirty, play the game, then fight. a loss to us all! this is a number we should retire this year.

Sun, 07/15/2007 - 10:39pm

He played one year here Chuckitt, let's not lose all perspective. Hall of fame? Maybe.

Mon, 07/16/2007 - 7:23am

i based that on the fact he is our most famous alumni. one year or not, he represented us for many years in the hockey world.

Mon, 07/16/2007 - 1:16pm

I going to agree w/ Blake. One season doesn't' give you retired # however, the K's can honor him in HOF.

Tony E
Mon, 07/16/2007 - 2:15pm

Ralph Backstrom is going to be on the fan590 sometime between 5-7 among other to talk about John Ferguson. you can listen online at www.fan590.com

Mon, 07/16/2007 - 3:51pm

No doubt, Chuckitt, and he always was very gracious when talking about Fort Wayne. One of my most fun memories of being a sportswriter was talking to him about all the stuff that has happened to the Stanley Cup. He was ALWAYS fun to talk to, except we spent the first 45 minutes catching up on the guys who were still around here.

Tony E
Tue, 07/17/2007 - 8:21am

A public memorial for Mr Ferguson will be at 11 Saturday in Windsor according to what I heard on the fan590 this morning.

Tue, 07/17/2007 - 11:23am

ROBIN Bouchard is back with the Fury. it's a done deal.

Tue, 07/17/2007 - 11:32am

I'll confirm that from Tom, It's on the Mlive.com website.

Komet Warrior
Tue, 07/17/2007 - 5:34pm

Be pateince people there is going to be signings for the komets real soon MAN!

Tue, 07/17/2007 - 6:30pm

I reported that (Bouchard) was going to happen MONTHS ago. Maybe I should take over the OHIC. Under new management I am sure it would recover it's former luster.

Komet Warrior
Tue, 07/17/2007 - 8:57pm

Skate would you like to join OHIC MAN!

Hit Somebody
Tue, 07/17/2007 - 9:31pm

Jungle Monkey has reported talking to Colin Chaulk during a Blue Light special and that Chaulker has signed with the Komets.....Are you in the OHIC.....MAN?

Hit Somebody!!!
Tue, 07/17/2007 - 10:03pm

"Generals sign bruising defenseman
Posted by Brendan Savage July 17, 2007 22:28PM
Categories: Breaking News
He's 6-foot-4, weighs 230 pounds, has averaged 243 penalty minutes during a seven-year pro career, can skate a regular shift and is reportedly a great guy to have in the dressing room.

Today, he's a Flint General.

The Generals landed the type of defenseman every team covets when they signed bruising blue-liner Kris Mallette to anchor their defense."

Looks like Flint is going to be the new and improved Elmira Jerkals.

Wed, 07/18/2007 - 10:34am

Looks like he is somebody that will dance with Henley. If in fact he is healthy and signs this year.

Wed, 07/18/2007 - 10:40am

I fanyone read the rest of that thread, the question was asked,"...could he fight?" I believe the answer was something to the effect of he could hold his own. I don't believe the Generals are looking at mallette as the "specialty player with a physical presence", I think they are looking to him to be a top two defenseman.

Wed, 07/18/2007 - 10:41am


Wed, 07/18/2007 - 10:45am

Holy Crap, Kevin Bertram is back along with Hukalo, Granbois and Kukulka. Looks like the Komets were able to sign a couple of draft picks.

This is on the IHL website by the way.

Wed, 07/18/2007 - 3:45pm

I doubt you could improve on the old Elmira Jackals.

Wed, 07/18/2007 - 3:47pm

Komet Warrior -- I am sorry, but there would only be room for one hockey expert in the OHIC and, although I respect you as the founder of the OHIC, I'm afraid you would be assigned the Senior Open Hockey League beat at McMillen Park.