While most of Canada’s Olympic contingent has returned to a hero’s welcome, Darren Granger’s happy homecoming with the wife and kids will have to wait a few more days.
After celebrating a gold medal Sunday while serving as equipment manager with Canada’s men’s hockey team in Sochi, the 42-year-old Brandon native immediately returned to his duties with the Los Angeles Kings, who practised Tuesday in Denver and resume the NHL schedule tonight against the Colorado Avalanche. With another stop in Calgary on Thursday night as the Kings face the Flames, Granger won’t be able to finally reunite with his wife Cathy, son Chase and daughter Sadie until Friday morning back in L.A. Such is the reality of the compacted post-Olympic schedule for NHL players, coaches and support staff who took part in the Winter Olympic Games in Russia.
"We practised here (Tuesday) and (Team Canada’s) Drew (Doughty) and Jeff (Carter) were on the ice today, so they are right back at it, too," said Granger via telephone from Denver where the Kings’ trio headed after boarding overseas flights from Sochi early Monday morning following Canada’s 3-0 victory over Sweden in Sunday’s gold-medal game.
"I miss the family and I wish they could have been there. It was such a great time and it would have been nice for them to be around the celebration, but I’ll make sure to take the medal home and show it off for a few days."
While Granger hasn’t been home since Feb. 7, his first Olympics were the experience of a lifetime.
"The whole Olympic Games and everything, from being in the village to being around the other Olympic athletes in the other sports, was a great experience," said Granger, who previously worked four world championships, one world juniors and a World Cup with Hockey Canada. "To be able to just go to the Olympics and then to win gold is pretty special."
The Olympic experience was the latest in a series of career highlights for Granger, who got his start with the hometown Brandon Wheat Kings back in the late 1980s before moving on to the NHL level first with the Vancouver Canucks and now with the Kings, hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2012.
"The last few years I’ve been on some pretty awesome teams and we’ve played a lot of playoff games in L.A. now, and to win a Stanley Cup and a gold medal in a couple of years span is pretty amazing," Granger said. "I don’t know if I can put it into words, but the way I feel about all those guys, whether they are in L.A. or with Team Canada, I have had some pretty special opportunities because of those players and those staffs and coaches and I am pretty thankful to be involved with both of those teams, for sure."
While Granger was focused on the task at hand with the busy schedule in Sochi, he did get the opportunity to check out some of the other Olympic action and relished the opportunity to support the rest of the Canadian Olympic team.
"We were pretty busy, but we did take in some events," Granger said. "We went as a team to the curling and we watched a lot of hockey games outside of our games. We watched the women’s gold medal game and that was a lot of fun. … And obviously the hockey for us was great. It was a super bunch of guys and obviously a great team and winning was as good as it gets."
While coaches and support staff aren’t actually awarded medals at the Olympics — Granger borrowed a medal to take a few photos following the gold-medal game — Hockey Canada will make replica medals for the other members of the team, with the whole squad also slated to receive rings commemorating their gold-medal victory at a ceremony in Vancouver in June.
Granger hopes to return to Brandon in July to share his medal and ring with supporters back home, after bringing the Stanley Cup to the Wheat City with former Kings assistant GM Ron Hextall in the summer of 2012.
"I will be back in the summer ... and hopefully we can show it off to the family and friends," Granger said. "It’s a pretty impressive medal ... The whole Olympic thing was like a once-in-a-lifetime thing and then to be able to win tops it all off."