A great year in hockey got even better for Brandon native Darren Granger late Friday night.
The Los Angeles Kings’ equipment manager is still basking in the glow of the National Hockey League team’s second Stanley Cup victory in three years, clinched with Friday’s 3-2 double-overtime win over the New York Rangers.
It’s the second major victory in only four months for Granger, who was an equipment manager on the Canadian team that won men’s hockey gold at the Sochi Olympics in February.
"It’s been a fun year," Granger on Sunday from Los Angeles. "I’m so proud of the guys, the players for both teams, the Kings and the Canadian team. Obviously, those are the guys that put a lot into it and have given me a great year."
A pair of Kings’ players, Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter, were also part of the Olympic team and together they battled through a long and gruelling season, enduring a gruelling workload that all became worthwhile on Friday night when Los Angeles defenceman Alec Martinez scored, 14:43 into the second OT.
"Definitely the Olympics condensed our schedule this season so that was one thing, and then this playoff was hard," said Granger, a former trainer with the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings. "The last time we won, we had big breaks in between series and lots of time to rest, but this one with the three seven-game series, we didn’t have a lot of time. We had no time to rest, so it was a hard one no question."
As a reward for the hard work, Granger not only got his hands on two of the biggest prizes in the sport, he also got a front-row seat for some classic games. Wild momentum shifts were all part of the package in these National Hockey League playoffs, right up until Friday’s game when the Kings got the opening goal from Justin Williams — later named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoff MVP — before falling behind 2-1, only to tie the game on a third-period Marian Gaborik goal, setting up the thrilling overtime sessions.
It was a roller-coaster ride that Granger’s family and friends back home shared with him from afar.
"It’s fun when everybody’s involved and family and friends can be as excited as we are here," he said.
The party will continue for a while longer. The team’s parade and rally are set for today in downtown L.A., and a smaller parade is scheduled for Wednesday in the South Bay area, where most of the Kings’ players and staff lives. While he’ll be busy all summer, with the Kings doing a major renovation to their practice facility, Granger hopes the victory tour will make a stop in Manitoba as well.
"As far as I know we still have plans to come back for a couple weeks in July," said Granger, who brought the Cup to Brandon and to Delta Beach, just north of his wife’s hometown of Portage la Prairie, when the Kings last won in 2012. "We’ll see how things work out with the Stanley Cup days, but hopefully I can have it back in that area and enjoy a day with it."