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Five Ringed Granger

by Jon Rosen / Los Angeles Kings

There are five Los Angeles Kings heading to Sochi, Russia to take part in the XXII Olympic Winter Games. Of course, that’s a number that doesn’t include Dean Lombardi, part of the United States’ Men’s National Team Advisory Group.

Nor does it include Head Equipment Manager Darren Granger, who will trade in his Kings chevron for a Maple Leaf as he represents his family and his country as an equipment manager for Team Canada in Sochi, Russia.

“It’s an honor to be asked, an honor to work the Olympic Games,” said Granger, who, unlike Doughty and Carter, wasn’t trailed by reporters during months of media speculation and wasn’t awoken with a Peter Chiarelli phone call at 7:00 in the morning on the day of the announcement.

“Obviously if the NHL guys weren’t there then a guy like me wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to work the Olympics. I’m fortunate that way, and fortunate because there are a lot of guys in this league that do my job, that are Canadian, that could be in my shoes. So I’m fortunate that way. It’s like the players, anytime you can represent your country – whether they play or I work – it’s an honor.”

Granger, who joined the Kings as the head equipment manager in the summer of 2006 after serving as an assistant equipment manager with the Vancouver Canucks, is in his third decade of ensuring National Hockey League and Team Canada players are able to fulfill their roles at the highest level possible.

Outside of his NHL duties, the Brandon, Manitoba native has represented Canada at the 2010, 2008, 2006 and 1999 World Championships in addition to the 1996 World Cup and the 1992 World Junior Championships. He is a tenured professional who has earned the respect of those whom he works with and those in opposing locker rooms around the circuit.

“It’s great for him,” Jeff Carter said. “He’s got a great reputation around the league. It’s nice when those guys get recognized and get a chance to do this stuff, because a lot of people don’t realize how much time and effort hey put into this behind the scenes. First ones here, last ones to leave – it’s not an easy job, so it’s nice to see them get recognized like that.”

Sharpening skates may be the duty that first comes to mind when recalling the tasks of an equipment manager, though from keeping inventory of equipment to the pinpoint manicuring of a dressing room to keeping players comfortable head to toe in their gear, there will be a variety of familiar tasks that will greet Granger in Russia.

Fortunately, there won’t be any travel involved once the team arrives in Sochi, so the late night arrival at the airport and the subsequent hanging of the equipment in the dressing rooms in the wee hours of the morning won’t apply to this assignment.

Instead, there will be added security measures that will take up some of the team’s time as soon as they arrive at the Black Sea resort city.

“When we land in Sochi from the charter, the coaches want to practice, so I think that will be a bit of a process,” Granger said. “Everything has to go through security. All the bags have to go through security. Once in the secured area, they have to go either to the village or to the arena, that type of thing. So I think that’ll be a big process, but once we’re in it’ll be the same as we here except the facilities aren’t going to be as nice as we have here.”

Granger is already somewhat familiar with the facilities, having seen them on video. Though the Canadian team will be staying in the Olympic Village with the rest of the athletes, they’ll have their own “house,” as he described it.

The Canadian team, comprised entirely of NHL players, won’t make it in time for the Opening Ceremonies, which will be held on February 7. The Kings, one of three NHL teams to play their final pre-Olympic game on Thursday, February 6 – 20 teams will be in action as late as February 8 – will have 19 full days between the home game against Columbus on the sixth and a road game at Colorado on February 26th.

In fact, the men’s tournament is weighted so heavily to the back end of the Olympics that Granger will rejoin the team in Denver, at which point assistant equipment managers Dana Bryson and Denver Wilson will have been working with the reconvened team through several days’ worth of practices.

“Without them, or without Dean’s approval to be able to do it, obviously it can’t happen,” Granger said.

It’s added responsibilities that Bryson and Wilson, part of a close support staff that spends a considerable amount of time together, are more than eager to share.

“Well, I’m just the third guy,” Wilson said. “I’m just the pigeon. I’m the lowest guy on the totem pole. Stuff runs downhill. Dana Bryson is in charge. I’ll be the Dana Bryson and he’ll be the Darren Granger.”

Bryson, who foresees taking orders from Wilson, offered a counterpoint.

“Denver is going to be my boss for those times. It’s always been like an unwritten rule that Denver is the boss even when Grang is here. But now it’s official that Granger’s not here, that Denver will be in charge and I will be second fiddle, as always.”

“I have four children. Three of them happen to be at home and I have Denver too, so it gives me great pride to have my oldest son be my boss.”

Though they shared laughs, there’s still the appreciation and awe that Granger will be able to represent his country and the team on the highest international stage. It’s a profound pride that caused Bryson to dismiss any territorial allegiances and rivalries.

“I’m so happy for him. I’ve got a very torn heart right now though,” Bryson said. “I’m American so obviously I want the U.S. to win the gold. But if they’re going to lose to anybody, if they’re going to get a silver, hopefully it’s to Canada for his sake.”

The familiarity between members of the equipment and training staff is a palpable relationship fully understood by Carter.

“Grangey kind of keeps it all together,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of characters in there, and Grangey’s quiet, he keeps to himself, he gets his work done. He kind of holds all those other guys together, which is a good thing.”

And though the Kings’ staff will be short a key member when practices pick up again, there will still be some familiar faces for Granger in the locker room half a world away.

“It looked like it was obvious that Drew was going to be on the team,” Granger said. “To have Jeff there is great. I wish Richie could’ve made it too.”

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