Iowa Heartlanders agree to terms with defenseman T.J. Fergus

Though the blueliner was traded to the Heartlanders in March, he didn’t appear in a game with the franchise in 2021-22. He is expected to contribute in 2022-23.

Contributed photo of T.J. Fergus

Contributed photo of T.J. Fergus

Isaac Goffin, Sports Reporter

Defenseman T.J. Fergus was traded from the Florida Everblades to the Iowa Heartlanders on March 14, yet he never reported to Xtream Arena for the 2021-22 campaign.

But when the Heartlanders begin training camp in October, Fergus is expected to be there. The left-handed shooter from Oakville, Ontario, signed with the club for the 2022-23 season, the Heartlanders announced Wednesday. He’s the fifth defenseman they’ve added for the upcoming campaign.

Like Heartlanders defenseman Connor Russell, Fergus started his professional career in 2021-22 after beginning the season at the collegiate level. Fergus was playing at and attending Acadia University in Nova Scotia when its men’s ice hockey program was forced to stop playing in January because of a COVID-19 policy.

And with Acadia faculty about to begin a strike Feb. 1 that would cancel classes, the business administration major joined the Everblades on Jan. 24.

While with Florida, the son of former NHL veteran Tom Fergus participated in seven contests and notched two assists.

Acadia resumed classes on March 3 after the strike ceased. Fergus said his teachers required students to be in class to graduate, so a couple of days before he was traded, Fergus planned to travel back to complete his degree. He graduated a few months later.

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The Heartlanders respected his decision, and they suspended him so they could keep his rights while not putting him on the active roster or reserve. When the Heartlanders submitted their protected list and season-ending roster in June, Fergus was included so the franchise would have the clearest path to maintaining him.

“We’re excited that T.J. is continuing his pro career with the Heartlanders,” head coach Derek Damon said in a release. “He had a few strong seasons at the U Sports level (one of Canada’s college sports organizations) before turning pro.

“For a lot of players that competed at that level, it’s been an on-and-off few years with cancellations and postponements, so getting those first few pro games on his docket with Florida was essential last year,” Damon continued. “This is an important offseason for T.J. with a 72-game rookie season in front of him.”

The 6-foot skater, who described himself as an offensive defenseman, recorded three goals and seven assists over 59 games with Acadia.

In the Ontario Hockey League with the Erie Otters, Hamilton Bulldogs, and Barrie Colts from 2014-18, he notched 102 points in 233 contests.

“I also think of myself as good defensively,” Fergus said. “I feel like I’m a smart player and stuff like that. I don’t really lack in my defensive ability. Kind of an all-around defenseman.”

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