"Could we get some music please," he yells out from the back of the bus. "Classic rock, if you've got it."
They've usually got it and within seconds we're singing along to an oldie, usually a goodie, as we start our drive to the Canucks team hotel.
The man making the request is John Garrett, former NHL goaltender and current Rogers Sportsnet colour analyst. He loves his classic rock and his request to hear it literally kicks off every bus trip I've ever taken on the road with the Canucks. If, for some reason, Garrett isn't on a trip, we all do a Garrett voice and ask the driver for classic rock.
I noticed a while ago that in addition to being a classic rock aficionado, Garrett is also a wealth of knowledge with stories galore. We'd arrive in Edmonton or Calgary or wherever, and he'd had a story about that city, something hilarious that sounds too far fetched to be true. Most stories involve NHL greats, like the Great One Wayne Gretzky, who "stole" Garrett's 1983 All-Star Game MVP award. Garrett was voted MVP early in the 3rd period, then Gretzky scored four goals, a re-vote was held and it was adios Garrett. Gretzky took home the award and a $14,000 sports car.
''I think John was up to the glove compartment, a horn and two tires when Mr. Gretzky took over,'' said Lanny McDonald, at the time.
When Garrett, who we call Cheech because his moustached head shot from back in the day looks like Cheech Marin from back in the day, speaks, he has my full attention. The old timey tales are hilarious, unpredictable and almost always true - he's so self-deprecating the stories have to be true!
This season I wanted to bring Cheech's stories to the public. Although he talks a big food game while calling games with John Shorthouse, there's a lot more goodness to be had than his love for ketchup. Below is our pilot episode of Conversations with Cheech or Back in my Day, we haven't decided what to call it yet. I asked Garrett what comes to mind when he thinks of Detroit and Boston, two original six cities we visited on this trip.
After the camera stopped rolling Garrett shared a few more nuggets about Gordie Howe.
"Who do you think the goaltender was that Howe scored his 1,000th goal on?" asked Garrett. "You bet, it was me. I was with the Birmingham Bulls and I knew Howe only needed a goal to hit 1,000, so I kept checking boxscores every day to see if he got it. Nothing! Then of course he scores it on me, his first goal in 11 games or something like that."
Garrett has an autographed photo from Howe at home. "It's one of my favourites," said Garrett. "It says: Thanks for all your help, Gordon."
"I played with him for two years and they were wonderful. He was a great person and an amazing player."