The Canuck I Remember…Craig Coxe

Craig was a very upright fellow
(Photo credit: Topps via

The third in a special summer series, author Patrick Johnston will write whatever comes to mind about a random Canucks hero. What is a hero? Patrick’s criteria is super secret, but maybe, just maybe, if you pay close attention, you’ll figure it out!

It always blew my mind that a hockey player could be from California. Even more mind blowing was the he’d be an enforcer. Here’s Craig Coxe, who I always thought of as too upright, and too neglected. He was an enigma to me.

As a kid, big Craig was more of a myth to me than anything. I can’t recall actually seeing him in a game for the Canucks, though I’m sure he appeared at least once. Only two of his Canucks seasons were within my viewing awareness – 89-90 and 90-91 – and between those two he appeared in a grand total of 32 games. What I did know of him was he had one job: fighting. I’d see big guys on that era of Canucks (Jim Sandlak in particular) but none of them ever seemed to be tough guys. The first tough guy that really entered my imagination shouldn’t surprise anyone – Gino Odjick. Gino also took Coxe’s job as designated ruffian.

The one time I vividly remember Coxe was from his time after the Canucks, when he played for the Sharks in their inaugural season. The Sharks were woeful that season; their opening two games were both against the Canucks and they were certainly competitive in the first, but not so in the second. As things started unravelling in the second game for the Sharks, Coxe went into ‘I’ve got to keep my job’ mode, chasing after the Canucks in an effort to get himself noticed and impress his new coach. What I do remember was realizing ‘this is what it looks like when someone isn’t a very good skater’. I’m not really sure why it stuck with me, but Coxe just seemed to skate funny; he was too upright, too casual, and he didn’t seem to get anywhere. I had no notion of his reputation as a big time heavyweight.

It was around this time that I pulled out my 89-90 Canucks Media Guide (god knows where that is ) and discovered that Craig Coxe had been with the Canucks, on and off, since 84-85. He’d even spent time with the Flames and the Blues but for whatever reason, the Canucks wanted him back. He was also the the player who made me realize that just because you traded a player away didn’t mean you couldn’t get him back. That was the part I really didn’t understand – if you’d been so disappointed in him to trade him once, why bring him back? Even more oddly, why bring him back but then not play him? I felt sorry for Craig, I’d look at his picture and think, he looks weird in his photo too; too upright, too long, too…I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I just didn’t feel like he fit what a hockey player should look like.

Despite not really having seen him, I have to hand it to Craig: he was…