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Transition Game

by Staff Writer / Minnesota Wild
October 15, 2005

Transition Game

New team, new town, new rules – nowadays Wild defenseman Scott Ferguson's life is all about adjustments.

Transition (noun):

Passage from one form, state, style, or place to another.
That one word could sum up what one of the newest faces in the Wild
lineup has been about since joining the Minnesota Wild in August.


Wild defenseman Scott Ferguson, along with the rest of his brethren along the blue line across the National Hockey League, have a big task in front of them. Mainly trying to digest the new rules aimed at curbing their success defensively. Long gone are the days of clutching and grabbing an offensive player as he makes his way into the zone with the puck. Something that has guys like Ferguson a little nervous coming into the new hockey world.

"Obviously it’s going to be a huge learning curve," says Ferguson. "A lot of it is reaction out there and a lot of times you get out there and start pushing on guys. Inevitably your arm will come out and they’re starting to call that."

But Ferguson understands why it’s being done even if it’s a long road to adapt to the changes.

"They’re trying to get more offense. I guess there’s been a lot of penalties (in the preseason) but once the players start learning the systems you’re going to really have to have good body positioning and try not to stick your arm out or hook as much.

For a guy like me it’s going to be tough because I relied a lot on the hooking and holding. You’re going to have to try and move your feet a bit more and keep your speed up and keep good body positioning and hopefully you can get through these learning curves early."

If you can’t tell yet, Ferguson isn’t exactly the next Bobby Orr or Paul Coffey. He’s more in the mold of what head coach Jacques Lemaire likes to refer to as a "plumber".  One of those guys that do the dirty work in the corners and isn’t looking for a lot of headlines.

"I’m not flashy by any stretch. I’m just one of those guys that goes out there and tries to play honest and move the puck up quick to the forwards and let them do all the skating. I try to be physical and stand up for teammates and get in the odd tussle. I just play a simple game and try and play good positionally and give some grit where I can."

The biggest change guys like Ferguson will notice is how the refs are calling the game as they clamp down on that hooking and holding. In the preseason it wasn’t out of the ordinary to see double-digit power plays for each team per game. But will it carry over into the regular season?

"I think they’re really going to try and stick to this. As players we really have to bear down in making sure we don’t do those little things. It’s going to be tough, certain guys are going to be affected more than others. Offensive guys are licking their chops right now because they know it’s going to open up the game for them but defensive guys are groaning a little bit because we know it’s going to be a lot tougher for us.  It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out and I think the team that adapts the quickest will have the most success out of the gate."

But Ferguson for one can see the bigger picture as to what the NHL is trying to accomplish - bringing the game back to the fans and injecting the speed and entertainment once again.

"Hopefully it creates a lot more energy and gets the fans excited about the game but time will tell. Hopefully they implement these things and it will improve the game.  As players we want the fans to enjoy the game.  That’s why we play. Hopefully we can come out here and give them a product they really like to come out and watch."

Ferguson classifies himself as a traditionalist; a throwback hockey player who enjoyed the "good old days". From a traditionalist point of view it must be hard to see the NHL go to the shootout format following overtime then, right?

"I went over to Europe for three months last year and they have the shootout to decide games at the end too.  Fans don’t like leaving when it’s a tie game I guess, and if that’s what they want to have then so be it, you can learn to live with the shootouts.

I probably won’t be taking any of the shots which might not be as exciting because you never know if I’m going to get the shot on net.  But if the fans actually want to see the game end with one team winning then more power to it, you can get used to the shootout.As far as being a traditionalist, I kind of liked how the old rules were but adding things like a shootout are going to generate more excitement. I think everybody’s coming into this year excited about having hockey back first and fore most and from there see what the rule changes are going to produce as far as how the players react. All in all if nothing else its going to bring people into the building just to see what’s going to happen in the first 20 games or so."

On the ice is only one transition that Ferguson will have to go through this year.  Off the ice is a whole different story as he transplants his family to the State of Hockey. 

Ferguson was born and raised in Camrose, Alberta, and was right at home playing for his hometown team in Edmonton.  But making the move to Saint Paul hasn’t been that big of a deal for Ferguson and his family thus far.

"They (Edmonton and Saint Paul) are fairly similar actually. Alberta’s got a lot of trees and same thing with Saint Paul. There’s a lot of green space and a lot of lakes. I grew up in northern Alberta so there’s a lot of lakes up there too.

It strikes me how friendly the people are here too. Usually when you come to an American city I find they’re just not as friendly but here everyone is saying "hi" to you and you’re double taking like you should know who these people are. It’s been a real smooth transition for my wife and kids and I. We live in a little crescent right now and the neighbors have all come over and introduced themselves. Everybody’s just been so friendly and welcoming. We’re excited right now. It should be fun."

Of course it’s all fun now, but what happens when the neighbors catch wind of that first three game losing streak? Will it be as fun then when you’re pulling toilet paper out of the trees and scraping eggs off your

"You know, that’s the fun part of being here. It’s a hockey city. Same thing as Edmonton. The fans understand the game really well and support their high schools teams and their college teams and they support the Wild. That was one of the exciting things about coming here. The fans are going to put you under the microscope, and I think that makes guys play better because they know the fans expect it.

As long as you work hard as (the Wild) have in the past and come out and produce, the fans are going to appreciate that."

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