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2007 07 22a .pdf

Original filename: 2007-07-22a.pdf
Title: B_01_jul-22-07_cmyk
Author: Pagination 1

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5:17 PM

Page b1

C M Y K b1

SUNDAY, JULY 22, 2007


Editor, Margo Goodhand 697-7234




John Ferguson, right, with “the brother he never had,” Ted Foreman and the Avco Cup in 1979.

Winnipeg never had a better friend — nor a tougher one

T may have been the first time in John Ferguson’s
life that he didn’t have a friend in the room.
Back in the summer of 1977, Ferguson, then the
general manager of the New York Rangers, had
come to Winnipeg to abscond with
two of the Winnipeg Jets’ most
prized possessions, Anders Hedberg and
Ulf Nilsson. The gifted Swedes were the
original free agents of the NHL, as the
Jets could no longer afford their dazzling
So there was Ferguson, at a reception
in a home in Tuxedo, making nice to the
Winnipeggers who had reluctantly parted with the last
great vestiges of the WHA Jets.
But he was getting bored. And Ferguson knew he wasn’t the belle of the ball.
It was at that exact moment a lifelong friendship was
about to be born.



Ferguson turned to a fellow he’d just met, Ted Foreman, and asked, “Is the
Downs open this afternoon? Because I’ll bet if we left here right now, nobody
would miss us.”
Foreman recalls the conversation as though it was yesterday.
“Why don’t we try?” he replied.
So they snuck out together. And, in a sense, they never really parted.
“He was the brother I never had,” Foreman said. “I was the brother he never
had. That’s how close we were.”
One can only imagine the grief that struck Foreman as he was driving home
from a wedding in Morris last weekend and tuned into a sportscast on CJOB. He
just wanted to hear some scores.
Instead, it was the news of John Ferguson’s passing, a day that everyone close
to the old enforcer knew was coming. But that didn’t ease the hurt.
“My eyes filled up,” Foreman said. “I almost put the car in the ditch. I was so
But it wasn’t just Foreman who mourned. Far from it. Ferguson’s death at age
68 from prostate cancer created a ripple of sorrow through the entire professional hockey community. For a man whose giant fists were the most feared weapons
in the NHL during his glory years with the Montreal Canadiens, Ferguson was
almost universally admired at the time of his passing.
In fact, this is a love story, more than anything. Why grown men with stoic
backgrounds don’t hesitate to profess their devotion to Ferguson. And the love
that the undisputed patriarch of the Winnipeg Jets held for the team he built
since first arriving in Winnipeg in 1978, ironically just a year after stealing Hedberg and Nilsson off to New York.
“I’m convinced of this,” insisted Ken Fenson, vice-president of the Jets public
relations staff in the early 1980s. “He (Ferguson) may be in the Hockey Hall of
Fame in his Montreal Canadiens jersey. But I will bet anything — with all due
respect to the San Jose Sharks and Ottawa Senators — he was accepted into the
Pearly Gates wearing his Jets jersey. He bled Jets blue and I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a Jets logo tattooed on him somewhere. He loved that franchise.”

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