Rod Fagerheim made a name for himself as a member of the Estevan Bruins, but he will be remembered for his contributions to his community after his playing days.
Fagerheim, a former Bruins forward and coach who helped launch the team’s alumni association, succumbed to pancreatic cancer on Thursday at the age of 58.
The Estevan native was a member of the first version of the New Bruins in 1971-72 and went on to play for the New Westminster Bruins, who had just moved from Estevan, the next season.
But friends lauded him for his work ethic and competitive nature.
“He’s definitely going to be deeply missed. He was a good, solid citizen in this community,” said Jim Larter, a friend who was involved with Fagerheim in recreation hockey and with the Estevan Woodlawn Golf Club.
“Certainly what I remember about him is his willingness to put everybody else ahead of himself and he was a very giving person. He put up a good fight and unfortunately, you can’t win those battles sometimes.”
Aside from his hockey prowess — Fagerheim was drafted by the Los Angeles Sharks of the World Hockey Association and played against the likes of Tiger Williams, Clark Gillies and Lanny McDonald — he was also an accomplished baseball player and was passionate about golf.
Fagerheim starred as a shortstop with the Estevan Ace Mud Mets and was inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame. He also served on the Woodlawn executive.
Karry Biette, a friend and former coach of the Bruins, said Fagerheim was both competitive and generous.
“We played together for the last five or six years on an over-30 team,” said Biette. “Just playing with Rod, seeing the fierce, competitive nature that he had, even at his age, playing against younger guys, that kind of summed up what Rod was all about.”
Fagerheim’s self-made business, Crown Advertising, was a sponsor of the Bruins and Biette said the team was sometimes in debt during the summer months when no income was coming in, but Fagerheim didn’t bat an eye.
“We weren’t very well-off financially and there were a lot of times when Crown Advertising carried a considerable debt load until we were able to get the season rolling. There were sweaters to be ordered, track suits, costing upwards of $15-20,000. We had no income in August and it was difficult to pay creditors. Rod was always very understanding when it came to that aspect.”
Fagerheim helped start up the Bruins Alumni and held meetings at his business.
“You need the leaders of the community to get involved, not only in name but in work. Once people see the leaders doing work, the rest of us younger guys tend to follow,” said Biette. “Rod was integral, not only putting his name in the alumni but contributing many hours of work that steamrolled the alumni from kind of getting going to a working entity.”
Fagerheim and his wife Amron also made a personal donation of $7,500 to the Bruins’ new dressing room at Spectra Place.
“You have to have somebody who’s going to lead the charge and that was where Rod was when it came to the Bruins … he was always at the forefront, ready to donate his time and money to the Bruins or the alumni,” said Biette.
Fagerheim was inducted to the Bruin Builders’ Hall of Fame following the team’s annual alumni game against Weyburn on Jan. 1, a game in which Fagerheim played.
“It was important. It was something we discussed. We all knew that Rod was not well and we really felt he deserved the award, whether it was two years or five years from now, he was going to get it,” said Biette.
Fagerheim was also involved with the Estevan Strippers oldtimer team, which played a tournament in Grand Forks on the weekend.
“We had lots of stories to tell about Rod. He was always a guy who left a lasting impression on people,” said Larter, who added that he was the last of the Fagerheim family living in Estevan.
Fagerheim leaves behind his wife Amron, his daughters Julie and Giona, his brother Grant and his sister Lynn.