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Freshman left wing Brett Agnew, son of former Columbus Blue Jackets assistant coach Gary Agnew, battles for the puck against Oakland on Oct. 16. (Maddie Meyer | Staff Photographer)

Hockey: 'Way of life' guides freshman to Athens

Few could have predicted the impact Brett Agnew would have this early in his Ohio hockey career.

The freshman left-winger is currently tied for fourth in scoring on the Bobcats with eight goals and 17 points through 12 games this season. He leads the entire Central States Collegiate Hockey League with five power-play goals and has solidified a spot on Ohio’s top line.

But his performance should not come as too much of a surprise. The sport has taken him town to town across two countries to get to Athens. Hockey isn’t just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle for the Agnew family.

“I’ve grown up with hockey since I was 3 years old,” Brett said. “It’s just always been a way of life for me and I never thought anything different of it.”

Brett’s father Gary is a career hockey coach. For the past four seasons, Gary served as an assistant for the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. Before that, he spent six seasons as the head coach of the Blue Jackets’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, and he has 10 years of experience coaching major junior hockey in Ontario.

Brett was born in London, Ontario, where Gary coached the city’s major junior team, the Knights. Brett’s mother Barb would take him to his father’s games and practices and, though Gary never pushed him to pick up hockey, Brett was drawn to the sport nonetheless.

“Even as a young kid, he was always wanting to put on hockey skates and handle a stick and play around in the basement or the driveway,” Gary said. “Maybe he was just genetically disposed to it.”

Gary did his best to balance the rigors of coaching for a profession with raising a family. He would attend as many of Brett’s games as possible, but much of the burden of day-to-day affairs fell on his wife.

“I thank my mom in that regard for sure” Brett said. “She was the one waking me up for (early practices) and getting going and driving me to the rink.”

But the more contentious issue might have been balancing Gary’s professional insight as a coach and his personal relationship with his son.

“I’ve always sort of felt that I was his father first and a coach second. My job was to support him,” Gary said. “If he asked me if there’s anything that he could have done better, I would tell him… but very rarely would I bring it up.”

Brett experienced the good and bad of being the coach’s son. In London, the Agnews were much like local celebrities. But the demands of a rigorous coaching schedule meant days, sometimes weeks on the road.

“Being able to go to the games and having all that popularity is fun and it’s good,” Brett said. “But you also don’t see that you’re away for 15 days at a time.”

When Brett was a junior in high school, his father was promoted to assistant coach for the Blue Jackets and the family made the move from Syracuse, N.Y. to Dublin, Ohio. Brett began playing travel hockey in Columbus, and he got the opportunity to practice and play right next to Nationwide Arena, where his father coached.

But after graduating, Brett elected to leave home to play junior hockey for two seasons in Ontario. That is where he really caught the eye of Ohio head coach Dan Morris.

“We started talking and he visited the school. He was a guy that we were pretty positive could contribute,” Morris said. “He really liked the fit and it was a good fit for us.”

Last spring, Gary’s contract was not renewed as the Blue Jackets overhauled their coaching staff. Although it has been an adjustment for the family, it has allowed Gary to attend nearly all of the Bobcats’ home games, a gesture Brett truly appreciates.

“He’s my best friend. We hang out almost every day in the summer,” Brett said. “Winter’s usually our busy season so it’s been nice to have him around.”


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