James (“Jim”) Anthony Neilson passed away peacefully surrounded by his three children on November 6, 2020, in Winnipeg due to complications from a rare skin disorder. He was 78. Jim is predeceased by his parents, Olaf Nielson and Rosie Rediron. He is survived by his aunt, Kokum Madeline; sisters, Jeanne Wennerwald (Henning) and Mary Louisa Nielson; his children, Darcy Wade (Tim), Dana Neilson (Dan Downe) and David Neilson (Carly); grandchildren, Taylor Wade, Sydney Wade, Jade Neilson, Scarlett Neilson and Naomi Neilson; niece, Diane Wennerwald; and nephews, Michael Wennerwald, Anthony Nielson and Robin Boleski.
Jim came from humble beginnings. He was born in Big River, SK on November 28, 1941 and was a member of the Big River First Nation. He grew up at St. Patrick’s Orphanage in Prince Albert, SK from age 5 and remained until age 19 when his professional hockey career took him to Kitchener (Beavers) and later New York. Jim’s education and upbringing at the orphanage shaped his faith and who he became as a man. He returned each summer to visit the sisters and priests who parented him.
Jim’s 17 year NHL career is well-documented. He played 12 years with the New York Rangers and the nucleus of this team (players and wives) remained family. Jim later played with the California Golden Seals, Cleveland Barons, before finishing his career with the Edmonton Oilers. After retirement, Jim scouted briefly for the Edmonton Oilers before moving to California for a business opportunity. The family returned to Canada in 1983 and Jim relocated to Winnipeg where he remained until his passing. Jim enjoyed his time in Winnipeg, initially working to advance the interests of Indigenous peoples, playing hockey with the Oldtimers, golfing and visiting his favourite spots after workouts at the YMCA.
While his accomplishments were numerous, Jim was recognized by the Big River First Nation with a new arena in his name, which will carry on his legacy in the Indigenous community for years to come.
Jim was also known for his sporting prowess on the baseball field, was an excellent golfer, and talented fisherman. Later in life, his passion turned to his grandchildren and spending quality time with family in Oakville and Saskatoon. Although Jim and his former wife (Dawna Neilson) divorced, love and laughter continued through the years with family get togethers.
On and off the ice, Jim was regarded as a true gentlemen, who lived quietly, spoke softly and developed lifelong relationships with people from all walks of life. Until his illness prevented it, he answered each piece of mail from fans across North America and Europe. Jim was also known for his ever present dry wit and practical jokes. He was easy going and never took life too seriously. Because of this, Jim was without complaint of anything or anyone. While he spoke softly, Jim’s footprints were heavy and we hope the story of his journey will continue to be told and inspire many people.
Our family thanks Jim’s friend, Ken Young (“Loophole”) for his steadfast friendship through the years and his care of Dad in Winnipeg - from trips to deliver Tim’s, chili, or newspapers, Ken was ever present, visiting Jim daily in the hospital. Our family also thanks the Health Sciences Centre staff and doctors for their compassionate care of Jim during his hospital stays.
In lieu of flowers, should you wish to make a donation, Indspire - https://indspire.ca/ and Give Kids a Chance - https://www.givekidsachancecharity.ca/ are suggestions from the family. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a funeral will take place at a later date in Prince Albert, SK, with the kind and generous support from the Big River First Nation.
Family and friends wishing to send online condolences are welcome to visit www.beaulacfuneralhome.com. Arrangements have been entrusted to the care of Beau “Lac” Funeral Home, Marianne Turcotte, Funeral Director, Prince Albert, SK 306-763-3322.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Jim Anthony Neilson, please visit our floral store.