All the kids who attended the Brandon Wheat Kings Hockey School barbecue at the Keystone Centre on Thursday got the surprise of a lifetime.
Their meal was interrupted by a guest appearance by Darren Granger, his son Chase and the Stanley Cup. Mouths were wide open and the kids flew to the National Hockey League’s championship trophy to have their picture taken with it. Before the different age groups had their team pictures, Granger, the head equipment manager for the Los Angeles Kings, put his Olympic gold medal around it and made the day of every kid there.
"It was a great experience," said Ethan Wiens, a bantam-aged player from Moosomin, Sask. "It was very different. I haven’t seen it before. It was something different to see, something cool. … I liked the medal and just being able to touch it and lift it up. It was cool."
Thursday was Granger’s day with the Cup, and he made the most of it. It started off with a public viewing in Portage la Prairie, where his wife is from and where they spend part of the summer. The family then had some private time with the trophy before bringing it to Brandon.
Granger heard the Wheat Kings’ camp was on and the Brandon native decided he wanted to share it with the kids and organization where he got his start. He didn’t advertise the appearance, as he didn’t have too much time before he left with hockey’s Holy Grail to allow his family in Brandon some time with it.
His decision to bring it to the camp, however, was very well received and Granger was touched by the kids’ reactions as well.
"The best thing about winning the trophy is sharing it," he said. "I knew the Wheat Kings Hockey School was on and I thought it was just perfect for these kids and the team that I started with could experience it for a little bit of time. It’s awesome.
"I was glad my son walked in with me because the reaction was awesome. That trophy draws attention everywhere. We drove with it in our back seat today. Everybody was looking at it, honking and they can’t believe it was there. It’s something that I’m in awe about, so I’m sure the kids are super in awe about it."
This year’s day with the Stanley Cup was even more special for Granger as people could see his name engraved on the trophy from 2012 — the 2014 plate isn’t engraved yet — and he had the gold medal he won as the equipment manager of the Canadian Olympic men’s hockey team with him as well.
While he had a blast back home, Granger admits there’s not much time left to celebrate his championships. He’s back in Los Angeles on the weekend so his son can attend a hockey camp before taking a week’s vacation in Maui. Then it’s back to work.
After a great year that included winning two of hockey’s biggest titles, Granger isn’t sure he can top it in this upcoming season.
"I don’t know if you can," he said. "Those are two of the top. In the NHL, it’s the top trophy and the other one is the second-best one as a team that NHL players can play for. You can’t play for the world championship if you’re in the playoffs, so you can’t win all three in one year.
"It’s a pretty special year. To be able to experience it with (LA Kings and Canadian Olympic team members) Drew (Doughty) and Jeff Carter makes it even more special. I’m so glad those guys are one of seven or eight players that have won both in the same season. It’s special we were able to do that."