Ferguson fighting cancer with fundraisers

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:45 PM ET

Spend a lifetime in hockey and you're bound to wear several labels.

As a player, John Ferguson was an enforcer -- one of the toughest guys in the NHL. He did it well enough to win five Stanley Cups as a member of the powerhouse Montreal Canadiens.

As a manager, Ferguson quickly became the start-from-scratch guy. A foundation builder. He guided the Winnipeg Jets through their formative NHL years in the 1980s, then moved on to expansion Ottawa in the early '90s, long before the Senators found the pain of playoff disappointment.

These days, he's better known as "Fergie Senior" -- the father of John Ferguson Jr., the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. That claim often overshadows his work as a special consultant to the GM of the San Jose Sharks, with whom he has worked for the past decade.

But Ferguson's most recent -- and important -- label wasn't worn at the rink. In the past year, he's assumed the role of prostate cancer patient -- then survivor -- thanks to some quick detection and surgical work in London by noted prostate expert Dr. Joseph Chin of London Health Sciences Centre and London Prostate Cancer Centre.

"It was a jolt. It caught me by surprise," Ferguson said this week from his home across the street from the Essex Golf and Country Club near Windsor. "I got the tests. I had just got back from the British Open (golf tournament) and they said, 'Something's wrong here.' They found something. It was prostate cancer and it plays on your mind. It took a while before I could get back to San Jose."

Plenty of the recent memorable moments in 67-year-old Ferguson's life have played out at or after he has walked off a golf course. The Ferguson family was holed up at the Oakwood Resort in Grand Bend three years ago when John, Jr. decided to enter the public eye in a big way and take charge of the Maple Leafs.

"We were bunkered down and hid out there while the offer came through," Ferguson said. "He's always been a very smart guy -- I've known it for a long time. He's his own man. He might listen to what I have to say, but he makes his own decisions. It can be tough on a mother and a wife, though."

Nothing has touched the family like prostate cancer. John, Jr. and sister Joanne, who lives in Kentucky, will take part in the Do It for Dad! Family Walk and Run on Fathers Day (Sunday, June 18) in London at TD Waterhouse Stadium.

Ferguson, Sr. points to that event and the Lexus of London Charity Golf Classic for Prostate Cancer, which runs Monday at the Highland Golf and Country Club, as fundraisers he's proud to be a part of in the Forest City.

"More events like this need to be done," he said. "I go to the hospital in Windsor and it says (on the wall) donations for prostate cancer are made possible by the John Ferguson Golf Classic. I had been raising that for years before I found out I had it and it's a nice feeling because it's money I know is being put to good use."

Dr. Chin said the golf tournament and Do It for Dad! keep prostate cancer on the front burner in London and Southwestern Ontario, where the disease is particularly common. Money raised will go into research and advances that he expects will lead to less invasive surgeries.

"These kind of fundraisers are extremely important to us because our funds don't come from the health care dollar. The golf tournament helped us purchase equipment we needed and it's heading into its sixth year now. I asked John to be our official starter for Fathers Day and his son, who has an extremely busy schedule with the Maple Leafs, is coming and his daughter is participating, too. That's what it's all about -- sons and daughters taking part for their dads."

When the fundraising ends, father and son Ferguson head back to their hockey teams. Fergie, Sr. has been re-energized by his fight with prostate cancer and the emergence of a good, young San Jose team. "I think I'm going to ride this Joe Thornton horse for a while," he said.

LEXUS OF LONDON CHARITY GOLF CLASSIC

When: Monday at Highland Golf and Country Club

History: Has raised more than $200,000 for research and treatment at the London Prostate Cancer Centre the past five years.

Donations: E-mail tournament founder Ray Bradley at rbradley@lexusoflondon.com or call 680-1900.

Do It for Dad! Fathers Day Family Walk and Run: Sunday, June 18 at TD Waterhouse Stadium.

More info: See details online at doitfordad.kintera.org


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