Darren Granger has hoisted the Stanley Cup, and the Brandon native hopes he’ll soon be able to celebrate Olympic gold.
The head equipment manager for the National Hockey League’s Los Angeles Kings, Granger’s expertise around the dressing room has landed him a spot as an equipment manager with Team Canada for next month’s Sochi Winter Games in Russia. He said receiving the phone call last July asking him to be part of the Olympic hockey team was an exciting moment.
"I feel very fortunate, very honoured to be asked and selected," Granger said this week from Phoenix, where the Kings were preparing to take on the Coyotes. "I think it’s no different than any of the guys that play. Those guys are honoured to play for their country and it’s no different for me to be able to work at the Olympics and represent Canada."
Granger has a long history with Hockey Canada, working with the national team for four world men’s hockey championships plus the 1996 World Cup and the 1992 world junior championship. He worked with Steve Yzerman when Canada’s Olympic hockey team general manager oversaw the Canadian squad that won silver at worlds in Halifax and Quebec City, and Granger believes that connection helped him earn this plum assignment.
While a big chunk of the prep work was taken care of last summer when the Canadian team held its orientation camp, and in September when supplies were shipped off to Sochi for early security clearance, Granger’s duties are beginning to pick up again while he juggles his responsibilities with the Kings, which included getting the NHL club ready for its Stadium Series outdoor game with the Anaheim Ducks last week at Dodger Stadium.
Similar to a team of all-stars that has to gel quickly, Granger has to figure out the players’ needs and preferences in short order, so he’s meeting as many as he can when their paths cross before the Olympics and quizzing the equipment managers of their NHL teams. Granger had a head start, with two Kings — Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter — on the Canadian roster. Another four Kings are playing for other countries in the Olympics and, professional that he is, Granger is seeing to it that they’re well taken care of. At least to a point.
"I’ve told everybody that those guys get whatever they want up until I get onto that flight for Sochi; then they’re on their own after that," Granger quipped.
Once they get there, Granger believes it will be business as usual pretty quickly. With all of the concern over security at the Games, there will be some extra hoops to jump through, although he expects the bulk of that to be taken care of immediately upon arrival.
"We stay in the Olympic Village, so I think as far as once we’re in we’ll be all set," said Granger, whose duties in L.A. will be handled by his assistants while he is gone. "We’ll be in a secured zone. The arena’s in that zone so I don’t think we really have much moving around to do once we’re there. I think that first night, getting off the charters and going through security, getting all the equipment and the personal bags through security will take some time. But the coaches want to practice that night when we get in, so we plan on just getting right into it."
Although hockey has taken Granger far away from his Manitoba roots — he was the Vancouver Canucks’ assistant equipment manager for 13 years before joining the Kings in 2006 — the former Brandon Wheat Kings trainer still treasures his ties here, revelling in bringing the Stanley Cup back to Brandon along with fellow Wheat City native Ron Hextall, who was the assistant general manager when the Kings won the trophy in 2012. While he won’t have all his supporters over there, Granger knows he’ll have plenty of people rooting for him on this side of the pond, both in Manitoba and at his home in Redondo Beach, Calif., where his wife Cathy, daughter Sadie and son Chase will lead the cheering section.
"My wife’s already named our house Canada home base for the Olympics," Granger said. "She’s going to have people over. We have some Canadian friends that live down there and then back home in Brandon and in Manitoba, I think everybody’s pretty excited. We had to do an apparel order the other day and they were all excited to buy their stuff, so that was fun for them."
Granger said Chase, who plays hockey, and Sadie, a figure skater, are especially excited for the ice sports, although there may be some divided loyalties for his daughter. Sadie trains at the Toyota Sports Center — also the Kings’ practice facility — which has been the home base for some American Olympians, including reigning U.S. figure skating champion Gracie Gold.
"She sees them every day," Granger said. "I think she’s a bit torn between the Canadian and the U.S. figure skating team, but other than that the Canadian hockey team will definitely be the top priority in our house."