SI Vault
Pat Jordan
December 13, 1971
John Ferguson, long and lean and sharp, is perched on a stool in a New York City drugstore, his shoulders hunched over the counter. His face, fleshless and dominated by a beaklike nose, is pointed down at his hands, which are moving back and forth across the Formica counter. He has curved his long, thin fingers so that each hand is shaped like a talon, and now, slowly, he brings the hands together until the fingertips touch and then withdraws them. He repeats the process time after time while the fat man standing beside him fidgets and stares at the moving hands. The fat man has a pink, anxious face, and he is clutching a piece of paper in his right hand, which he keeps out of sight.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 13, 1971

Icemen You'd Love To Hate

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

On George Guilbault Night, Morrison has bashed five Long Island players before six minutes of the first period have elapsed. His stick has yet to touch the puck. He is skating toward a loose puck when a Long Island player cuts in front of him and steals it. Morrison charges after him and pushes him from behind with both gloves. The player falls flat on his face, sliding about 10 feet on the ice. When he comes to a stop, Morrison is standing over him with cocked fists. Another Long Island player, Reg Krezanski, comes to the aid of his fallen teammate. Before he can say a word, Morrison hits him in the temple with a right hook. Immediately, Don Perry sends his entire bench onto the ice to aid Morrison. The Long Island coach does the same. Morrison now has Krezanski bent over his own goal and is throwing punch after solid punch into his face. The officials seem too frightened to intervene, so they are trying to separate the rest of the players, who have squared off in a number of less lethal bouts. By now the arena fans have begun to rattle the wire fence so vigorously that small shock waves seem to be traveling around the ice. Some of the younger fans have started to climb the fence. Policemen have come rushing from every exit and are trying to pull the fans off the fence, but they cling with a fierce tenacity, dangling sometimes by one hand while two and three policemen pull at their kicking feet.

Fights in the EHL are fierce and seemingly endless. This one lasts 15 minutes. Ultimately Krezanski and Morrison square off at center ice for about 10 minutes, circling, jabbing, circling some more, jabbing, like two well-trained professional fighters, until finally they are too weary even to raise their arms. Then the referees come between them and lead them both toward the penalty box. As Morrison skates past an opposing player he pushes him to the ice for no apparent reason. The fence rattles its approval. Morrison and Krezanski receive consecutive five-minute penalties. They are seated in one small box separated by only about three feet and two nervous policemen. The game continues.

Morrison, who was born in Nova Scotia, said he was never a tough player until he went to Quebec to compete in a Junior A League. In three years in Sydney he said he never had a penalty. He was following the same procedure in Quebec when he was told he was going to be cut by the club. The following night he started four fights. He was not cut. In Junior A, Morrison fought to keep a job, but once he came under Coach Don Perry's supervision at New Haven fighting became integral to his style.

"Don sent me after different guys," says Morrison. "He would say get this guy or that one; that when I see a teammate get hit by a guy to eventually get him. I wouldn't have been there if it wasn't for Don. At first I was disappointed that I had to play this way—no one likes people calling him an animal—but then I realized it was only a dream to think I could be a Bobby Orr. I owe a lot to Perry. He taught me never to wait until the other guy throws the first punch, to always hit the man first and then go after the puck. He helped me psych myself up to play this type of game."

Unlike many young players with a reputation for toughness, Morrison doesn't mind admitting that at times he has felt fear on the ice. "When I first came to the EHL, I was scared. I had heard about all the headhunters in this league. I figured the only way to stay was to be a bigger headhunted Eventually I became more afraid of the fans. When I went to other towns, they threw beer bottles and cans at my head. I was afraid I would get killed. If this story ever comes out about me, then the players will all be running at me even more. Then it'll be a tossup between the fans and the players to see who gets me first."

Morrison added that the safest thing for him would be to make the National Hockey League—quickly. This year he lights for the Fort Worth Wings of the Central Hockey League, a small but substantial step up. The NHL is still a good distance away.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8