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Hockey: Agnew skates in father’s footsteps
Ohio coach Dan Morris said hockey is a generational game for many families in Canada and the United States. It’s a game where a boy could learn more from talking about the sport on the long car rides to games than on the ice.
The same could be said of Ohio junior forward Brett Agnew and his father Gary Agnew.
Gary, formerly an assistant coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, is the current assistant for the St. Louis Blues. Despite his vast knowledge of the sport, he always wanted to keep a distance between coaching and raising a son.
He never wanted to be the kind of dad that would shout at his child from behind the glass while he was playing hockey. That just isn’t his style.
“My philosophy is that I’m a dad first,” Gary said. “If he wanted me to help him, I would. … I was there to support him whether he was a soccer player, baseball player or hockey player. I said ‘I’d rather be your dad than your coach, but if at some point you want to make a run at being a hockey player, I’d be more than happy to help you’.”
Brett was born in London, Ontario, while Gary was coaching the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights. When he was 12 or 13, he told his dad that he’d be interested in being a player in the sport that Gary made his livelihood coaching.
From there, he and his dad started hanging out at ice rinks and worked on improving his game.
But as is custom in many coach’s families, the Agnews did their fair share of traveling.
Before his family settled in Dublin, Ohio when he landed a job with the Blue Jackets, the Agnews moved with Gary as he coached in London, Ontario in two different stints, as well as Kingston, Ontario, and Syracuse, NY.
Those moves weren’t always easy, but Gary said that moving around and having to make new friends every time the family moved helped Brett become much more personable than Gary was ever able to be.
“When you move around a lot, you have to find a way to make friends,” Gary said. “I have no idea how he did it, but he pulled it off. I don’t think it was easy. He got put in a lot of uncomfortable situations.”
But Brett, who is thriving on the Bobcats’ top line with 14 goals and 21 assists this season, has always appreciated the life his dad provided and his attitude as both a coach and a father.
“He’s always stayed, not out of the way, but let me enjoy the game,” Brett said. “… He’s always been the guy who sat in the corner and let me play.”
And while Gary would always enjoy talking hockey with his son, he wouldn’t bring it up unless Brett brought it up first.
“If he came out of a game and asked how he played, I’d tell him as honestly as I could, with both the positives and the negatives,” Gary said. “I didn’t need to bring up stuff if he didn’t want it brought up.”
This has extended to his relationship with Brett’s coaches. If someone asks for help on their power play or forecheck, he’ll give it, but Gary said he isn’t one to butt in and tell someone how to do their job.
Morris sought Gary’s advice after the Bobcats were swept by Lindenwood in their first series after winter break.
“(Gary) has a good read on me, whether I’m down or I’m up,” Morris said. “He’ll know when to talk hockey and when to talk life. After Lindenwood, Gary was there and for me, it was a nice ‘keep your chin up’ (talk).”