1-On-1 with John Ferguson

Tucson Roadrunners General Manager John Ferguson joined Adrian Denny and Kim Cota-Robles this week on Roadrunners Happy Hour. Catch Happy Hour every Tuesday at 5 p.m. on Fox Sports 1450 AM and the Roadrunners Happy Hour Podcast on the iHeartRadio app. For the complete episode, including what his favorite piece of hockey memorabilia is, download below.

Listen to “Ferguson Back On The Show” on Spreaker.

Q: The team and players are improving immensely. What do you think is responsible for the success and development that we are seeing now?

Well, it’s a great question. And we as managers and executives, we try to figure out the same thing. So we can replicate it year over year. It’s not easy to find and our guys have found it for now. But it’s a long year. And we’re going to have to continue to build. We need to be better in February than we were in November. We’re going to need to be better in April and hopefully down the stretch and into the playoffs. But it’s a group that has a great deal of character. They’ve all bought in. They are selfless. Trying to make themselves better every day, but understanding and contributing to roles that our coaches and our development staff need them in to contribute to a winning team.

Q: Any plans for the trade deadline as we approach March? Can you share anything?

Well, we’re certainly going to keep our minds open. This team has earned an opportunity to add something, if you will. But we also want to be respectful of the chemistry and the players that are here, the players who have gotten us this far. We’re not where we need to be yet, but we like what we’re seeing, and we’d love to add the right way if we can.

Q: These past two weeks have been crazy for the growth of hockey with the Winter Classic, World Juniors and the start of the PWHL. Do you see the growth here in Tucson? What do you think that we can be doing here in Tucson to capitalize on everything that’s happening and build hockey players here?

Yeah, it’s a great point. There’s been so much interest across the globe in our game, growing our game. And you mentioned the PWHL. They’re selling a lot of tickets, which is great growth, great growth for the game, great growth for the women’s game, because that’s been a challenge in the past. There’s been regional pockets that have done it. Now they’re doing it at the professional level which is a huge step forward for professional hockey here in North America. They have good leagues in Europe as well. You mentioned the the Under 20 World Juniors. We had a number of prospects there. So we think the game is growing. It’s contagious. We need to reach out to the community, continue to do that at every opportunity here in Tucson in the surrounding areas, in the desert. We’re doing a good job, but there’s always more we can do. We’ve got an open mind. We are as much as we can getting into the community, reaching out to the younger people, whether it’s schools, families to really deliver a product that we’re proud of and that can attract people across the spectrum of sports fans. And, you know, hopefully make them into hockey fans.

Q: Ryan McGregor and Curtis Douglas are coming out to practice tonight with the high school kids. Do the players enjoy coming out to youth practices during their down time?

Yeah, it’s good. We have to take advantage of it at both levels (NHL, AHL) because there’s a lot of travel. We understand that. When we get a chance to get back into a bit of a routine, it’s great to take advantage of that time and do so at TCC, but also around the community and to reach out and connect.

Q: We have a few PTO guys on our roster right now that have really stepped up. Austin Poganski and Peter DiLiberatore have both been awarded AHL contracts. How do we battle call ups and injuries by using PTOs and ECHL call ups?

Yeah, they have and it’s critical because we understand, we know we want to grow players and bring them up and have them ready to play in the NHL. Not just to play, but contribute when they’re called upon. They’ve done that, but there’s a corresponding hole. If the player’s depth is not there for us, we’ll take a step back at the Tucson level. So we’ve compiled a great deal of depth, we’ve identified players that can come in and help. You’ve named a few of them. Wells and Lleyton Moore and DiLiberatore or Poganski, of course, who was part of Coachella Valley last year and beat us in the first round. We don’t forget things like that. It’s been a great fit. He’s a real leader for us, a real pro and a big part of what we’re doing.

Q: The PWHL is introducing a few new rules with their start. One of them being that any goal on a power-play or penalty-kill will end it.  Are there any rules that you would like see implemented in the AHL?

Yeah, I don’t mind that thought and you bring up a real good point. I thought you were going to say if the team that took the infraction gets scored on before they touched the puck, they still have to serve the penalty. I’m in favor of that. Very similar to what you’re talking about. I understand, if the shorthanded team scores, it eliminates the power-play. I don’t mind that. I don’t think it’ll ultimately increase scoring. I will suggest this elsewhere. There are times, late in the game, up a goal, down a goal or tied, where, the shorthanded team might get a breakaway and there’s an infraction committed. You may not want the shot, the penalty-shot, in that case because make or miss you’re back on the penalty-kill for the duration. So that’s one that I think needs a little bit of fair balance and there should be an opportunity there for a coach to opt out of the penalty-shot and just say, hey, no, we’re going to go four-on-four and it may help you win a game or, or come back in a game.