July 24, 2021

Thunder and Lightning: John Ferguson's Autobiography

I think I camp differently than most people.

Most people like to get out to the campgrounds for a chance to embrace the great outdoors. That is the last thing I'm looking to accomplish when I go camping.

I am an avid hiker and trail runner. Nature, vitamin N as I call it, is very much something I crave. Living in remote northern British Columbia, it is not something I find hard to find.

So when I go camping, I'm looking for quiet time and a chance to read. I can go out for a four day trip and take a couple dozen books, minimum. Running books, travel books and especially my hockey books. 

On this most recent camping trip I found myself lost in an oldie of a hockey book that many people might not even know exists. It is hard to find nowadays, and is called Thunder And Lightning. It is John Ferguson Sr.'s autobiography, written with Stan and Shirley Fischer.

In his day Fergie was both feared and affable on and off the ice. Some consider him the first goon, which isn't accurate on a few fronts. There was lots of goons before him, and he was more than a goon. Fergie could play. But he could also beat the tar out of opponents and often did.

His autobiography was an enjoyable read, covering his youth, minor league and NHL days with the legendary Montreal Canadiens. He also was part of the coaching staff of the 1972 Summit Series team and manager in New York with the Rangers and in Winnipeg with the original Jets.

Through all that time Fergie saw a lot. And he never was shy to share his opinion on most of what he saw. I thoroughly enjoyed reading his impressions of superstars, tough guys and crazy characters he encountered on and off the ice. 

It is interesting to hear him talk about both teammates and opponents. Everyone from Jean Beliveau and Serge Savard to Gordie Howe (who he never fought but truly respected) to Howie Young (who he despised more than anyone else). 

His insights as a manager on the Rod Gilbert and Phil Esposito dynamics in New York or what went wrong with Dale Hawerchuk in Winnipeg.

He also comments on his son, who, at the time of publication, had just been signed as minor league depth by the Montreal Canadiens at the time of publication. Of course many years later he became better known as a hockey manager himself.

If you can find a copy, I'd recommend it. It is an interesting look back at hockey from the 1960s through to the 1990s.


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