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Hurricanes scout has lasting friendship with Pronger

by Tim Wharnsby

TORONTO -- Carolina Hurricanes scout Sheldon Ferguson received a surprise phone call a few weeks ago.

On the other end was Chris Pronger, who invited his old friend to the Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Monday evening.

"I was so happy to get the call," Ferguson said. "There are many things to like about Chris and one of his traits is he's very loyal to his friends."

That friendship took a brief break when Ferguson's Hurricanes got the better of Pronger and the Edmonton Oilers in the seven-game 2006 Stanley Cup final.

Pronger and Ferguson first met in the fall of 1990. Ferguson was working for the Ontario Hockey League Central Scouting Bureau and interviewed a 16-year-old Pronger when he was playing junior B for the Stratford Cullitons.

He was drafted the following spring by the Peterborough Petes.

In 1993, Ferguson was in charge of putting together Canada's roster for the IIHF World Junior Championship in Sweden. It was one of the youngest teams Hockey Canada sent to the tournament.

Pronger and his Peterborough teammate Brent Tully led the defense. Manny Legace was in goal. Paul Kariya was the leader up front.

Canada would up upsetting Peter Forsberg and host Sweden to win its first of five consecutive world junior gold medals.

"That was a great team," Ferguson said. "It was a young team, but a great team. Perry Pearn did an outstanding job as coach. We took over a goalie in Manny Legace, someone we believed in but others said was too small.

"Chris, Brent and Mike Rathje anchored that outstanding, real big defense. Martin Lapointe was our leader. We just had a great group of kids."

Even though Pronger was a slim 160 pounds, he exhibited the toughness he was known for later in his pro career.

"Chris had what could be called a mean streak, but his mean streak was little meaner than others," Ferguson said as he chuckled. "We used to comment that he wasn't afraid of using his stick for more than handling the puck.

"He was very competitive, as he likes to say. He came to play every time he hit the ice."

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