The Jackson Cage

“Having 18 lovable guys on a team is fine, but if you finish last they aren’t so lovable.”
-Fred Shero.

Montreal’s Terry Harper is marking Toronto’s Brian Conacher in the photo, this might have been from the SCF in 1967. In the early 1960′s Montreal had a terrible time dealing with Toronto (Leafs won the Stanley 62-64) and their size. The Habs were more skilled, but their bigger defenders (Lou Fontinato, Tom Johnson) were long in the tooth and while the youngsters coming up (JC Tremblay, etc) could hold their own the team needed added toughness. They brought in Terry Harper from the Regina Pats, and signed Ted Harris and John Ferguson. Here are the three transactions:

  • June 1963: Montreal acquires D Ted Harris from Springfield (and crazy Eddie Shore).
  • June 1963: Montreal acqured L John Ferguson from Cleveland for cash.

Harper made his NHL debut in the 62-63 season; these many years later he’s the all-time leader among rookies that season in NHL games played (1066) but for a lot of his time in Montreal Harper was not a popular figure. He was gangly and had little puck skill compared to guys like Tremblay or Talbot.

John Ferguson became the policeman for the smaller forwards and he could score some too. Harris was brute force, he won a lot of fights in his time in Montreal. What did Terry Harper do? Marked his man, played his position, made sure guys like Brian Conacher either dished off or met the boards. It wasn’t sexy but it was effective, and Harper was also a very tough player who never backed down from anyone. He was always a favorite of mine because Bobby Orr mentioned him a few times as being a player he respected, and Harper went about his business under trying circumstances without bitching about it. There’s a lot to learn from a guy like Terry Harper.

With the news that Pat Quinn is returning in the fall, I think we can start to compile a list of possible “player-types” we’ll see here in 2010-11. Terry Harper. Ted Harris. John Ferguson.

The experiment that saw JF Jacques on the 1line and Ryan Stone taking a regular shift was the beginning. When we talk about free agents, we should start with height, weight and PIMS. When we discuss possible callups, we should note that Alex Plante (6.04, 225) will probably trump Taylor Chorney (5.11, 182). The Oilers may not have too many small players (I think they do) but they certainly don’t have the right small players to make things work.

Crust. Jam. Rugged. Bruising. Enforcer. Some of them are coming to town and a couple will play in the top 6F. The new defensemen will be graduates of the Derian Hatcher school of charm. I’m hopeful the Oilers will remember something about the trio of western boys (Harper, Harris and Ferguson) who made their way to Montreal 47 years ago: they could play the game.

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