By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: There was no mistaking the distinguished-looking man in the black fedora sitting in Silks at Hastings Racecourse on Canada Day.
Bill Chisholm, honoured member of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, was a guest of Felix Ayarra, one-time horse owner who’s daughter Rebecca is Mrs. Mario Gutierrez.
Chisholm, a product of the East Hastings minor lacrosse system, became the heart and soul of the Vancouver Burrards for 13 rollicking years, during which time he captained them to four Mann Cup national championships: 1961, 1963, 1964 and 1967.
Along the way, Chisholm became close friends with another east end star box lacrosse player, John Bowie Ferguson, whose hockey career began as a stickboy with the Western Hockey League Canucks at the old PNE Forum.
Ferguson rose to NHL fame as one of the most intense competitors in the game as the legendary No. 22 for the Montreal Canadiens. They won five Stanley Cups with Ferguson in the lineup as their unquestioned (and undefeated) tough guy.
Ten years ago next week – July 14, 2007 – Ferguson succumbed to bone cancer at the age of 68.
Chisholm was part of the close-knit east end ‘rat pack’ that would reunite at Hastings Racecourse when Ferguson would frequently return to Vancouver as an NHL executive with the New York Rangers, Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators or San Jose Sharks.
Fergy loved the horses. He was a member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame selection committee and briefly served as president of Windsor Raceway between hockey jobs.
The last time Ferguson appeared at Hastings as a guest decorator he signed so many hockey cards created exclusively for his visit that his fingers went numb. His loyal lacrosse buddies from the past hung in with him swapping stories until the lights went down at the racetrack they all were once sneaking into as kids.
John Bowie Ferguson had a passion for hockey, horses and life. “He wasn’t only a great athlete,” Chisholm says. “He was a great guy who never forgot his friends.”
And, no doubt, his many friends will never forget him.