Monday

Jim Agnew

Canucks fans of a certain vintage will remember Jim Agnew quite vividly. No one worked harder than Agnew, who grew up on a cattle farm in Hartney, Manitoba. His skill level was not much, as his single assist in 81 career NHL games can attest, but he sure wasn't afraid to work hard and do the dirty work, just like so many prairie boys.

Drafted 157th overall in 1984 by Vancouver, the former Brandon Wheat King and Portland Winter Hawk (in junior he was traded for John Kordic!) became probably exactly what was expected of him - a tough-as-nails minor leaguer who got called up a few games here and there, whenever a game called for a little extra toughness.

Jim probably should have stuck in the NHL longer than he did. After all in 1990 he was an all star in the IHL, and his toughness and bruising physicality was a welcome rarity amongst the pacifist Canucks of the late 1980s. But a series of serious knee injuries kept Agnew in hospital beds rather than on the ice. The Canucks released him, though former Canuck right hand man Brian Burke was quick to make Agnew one his first additions as general manager of the Hartford Whalers.

After just 16 games with the Whalers in 1992-93 Agnew again reinjured his knee. This time he was forced off the ice for good.

Agnew once shared a couple of his memories of life in the big leagues.

“It’s overwhelming for a 20-year-old kid to walk into a place like the Boston Garden and see a Bruins banner hanging there,” Agnew said. “Or to head into L.A. thinking, ‘I’m going up against Gretzky.’ ” In fact, Agnew remembers the time his coach delivered some startling instructions just before starting him in a game against the Los Angeles Kings.

“The coach says ‘Jimmy, we’re going to start you out. But right off the hop, I want you to run Gretzky,’ So I decide I’m really going to run Gretzky first shift, I’m going to hammer Gretzky, because I wanted to please the coach.

“A few seconds into the game and the puck’s behind the net, and there’s Gretzky. I’m tearing down the ice right at him, and he does one of these between-the-legs spin maneuvers and I go flying by like NASCAR. It was less than a minute into the game and I was sitting down. The coach just leaned over to me and said, ‘Forget about what I told you.’ ”

In 1995 Agnew and his family settled down in Missoula, Montana where he studied exercise science at the University of Montana. He returned to Canada a couple of years later, he would eventually come back to Missoula, pass his citizenship exam and work as a sheriff's deputy.

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