WINDSOR, Ont. -- It was a reunion nobody wanted to attend, said former Winnipeg Jets who gathered to celebrate the life of John Ferguson yesterday.
"This is bittersweet," said Ken Fenson, the team's first media relations director.
"I always wanted to see the guys but never thought it would be this way."
Ferguson, who succumbed to cancer last Saturday, gave Fenson, Manitoba Moose general manager Craig Heisinger and PR man Ralph Carter their first jobs in professional hockey.
"I just hope he knew how much he influenced me in my life," said Fenson, now a financial advisor in Houston, Texas. "He cast a big shadow over a lot of lives."
Defencemen Serge Savard, Jim Kyte, Barry Long and Dave Ellett along with forwards Jim Nill, Rick Bowness, Moose head coach Scott Arniel, Andrew McBain, Thomas Steen and Dale Hawerchuk exchanged favourite stories Friday night about the man who made a difference in their lives.
Tough guy Kim Clackson, coaches Dan Maloney and Tom McVie and promotions manager Marc Cloutier rounded out the contingent of former Jets attending the funeral.
Prior committments kept several former Jets from the service. Stanley Cup-winning head coach Randy Carlyle of the Anaheim Ducks and former defenceman Tim Watters were unable to escape prior committments.
In his eulogy to his friend of 30 years, Winnipeg's Ted Foreman told a crowd of about 500 packed into All Saints Anglican Church that he and Fergie "were like brothers each of us never had."
"He taught me the meaning of first class. His word was his bond. He meant what he said and said what he meant. He stood behind his friends," said Foreman.
"The mark he left on the hockey world will never be erased. He will always be remembered as a man who made Winnipeg a better place to live."
Three transit buses bearing the heading "Windsor honours John Ferguson" and a police escort donated by the City of Windsor transported the who's who of hockey from the hotels to the church service and a reception at the Essex Golf and Country Club located across the street from Fergie's house.