Saturday, September 26, 2009

Grant's Shadow

Image by Randy J. Cole

The wind has a snap to it as it stirs up swirls of snow, moving them across the frozen tarmac of the Deadhorse Alaska airport, like lost souls seeking directions to warmer weather. From the warmth of the Northern Air Cargo terminal looking through the weathered south side glass, one cannot help but notice the tall surefooted man in the yellow vest walking across the tarmac. He does so with much more confidence then most. He seems natural on the slippery surface. The seeds to this sure footedness were perhaps planted in 1936 at the Winter Olympics. It was there, in Germany, that this man’s grandfather, Harrison Stacy coached the Belgium hockey team.
Grant Jennings, was born in 1965, in Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan and raised with his older brother and younger sister in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada. Grant is a quiet individual and somewhat imposing, and that is before one finds out that he is a former defenseman with the National Hockey League.
Working on the North Slope in Alaska can be interesting depending upon ones job but what makes any job better is getting to meet the interesting people that you share the harsh environment with. Over the past year I have gotten to know Grant while spending time at the Deadhorse, Airport while performing my duties. Grant, is an aircraft mechanic and one of two that works on the private 737 aircraft owned and operated by two major oil companies on the slope. You have to be a tough individual to inspect and repair any kind of mechanical item when it is minus 30 degrees, let alone a multi million dollar aircraft. Grant’s interest in aircraft evolved from his father, who was a bush pilot in Canada and helped influence Grant to always have a skill to fall back on. Aircraft mechanics seemed to be a natural decision cultivated by the time he spent helping his dad maintain his aircraft while growing up. In later years after he hung up his pro skates, Grant would graduate from the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, earning the right and displaying the abilities to work on some of the most sophisticated aircraft produced.
Grants professional hockey career started in 1985 and ended in 1998. The time span in between was filled with many highs and lows like any other career. During the pro years Grant played with the following teams.

Washington Capitals
Hartford Whalers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Toronto Maple Leafs
Buffalo Sabres

It was while playing as a defenseman with the Penguins that Grant reached for the golden ring and caught it not once but twice. Season 90-91 and season 91-92, Grant and his team mates won the Stanley Cup. It doesn’t get much better then that. If you have ever wondered what one of those rings looks like up close I can tell you that they are very impressive. During a conversation with Grant I asked him if I could take some photos of his rings. Grant was kind enough to bring them to the North Slope during his following tour. He allowed me to hold them and take photos. I would never have asked permission from him to put them on my finger, to me that would be just wrong, kind of like asking a sitting King if you could wear his crown for a few minutes. I was satisfied that he brought them up for me to see. I asked Grant to put them on his fingers for a few photos and while he did so I asked him what the most memorable moment of his career was, Grant paused for a moment and said he had two. The first being a winning goal he had made during a game against Boston, and the second was the first Stanley Cup win. Grant was quick to point out that although those two things were important, they were small compared to the two greatest accomplishments of his life to date, his two sons, Harrison 13yrs old, and Gordy, who is 2yrs old. With this simple statement Grant elevated himself to a new level, way beyond the reach of Google or Youtube. Grant is just a hell of a nice guy, and most of all, a caring father.
On a side note, June 12, 2009 the Pittsburgh Penguins brought home the Stanley Cup for the third time. It was pretty exciting to watch the game and even more so knowing that just a few miles away was a guy who was a big part of the Penguin’s Stanley Cup history.

Image by Randy J. Cole
Best wishes to Grant and his family.


Anonymous said...

Great story. I have only known Grant for a couple of years but can say he is a really down to earth guy and still an incredible hockey player. My son and his hockey team were so lucky to have Grant come and skate with them, a memory they will always have, getting pointers from a NHL Stanley Cup winner!

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

Very nice story, Randy. It may surprise you to know that I'm a huge hockey fan. Grant sounds like a wonderful man, good father, terrific husband. And an airplane mechanic in that weather? Incredible! Don't the planes sorta slip and slide when they land on that surface? It would scare the beejeebers outta me. Great story!

Anonymous said...

ask grant about the time travis got locked up with one of grants rings on and tried getting out of jail using the ring.

Warren said...

Grant has certainly taken an interesting path to a career in aviation. I lived across the ally from Grant in HB and played a lot of road hockey with Grant, his brother Guy and David L. His Dad Rex took me on what was probably my first flight; in the DNR C-180 on floats. I continue to play hockey and also command a B777; a career that was helped by Grants Dad.
Grant, thanks for the hockey memories.

Anonymous said...

I actually met Grant at a bar outside of Pittsburgh a couple nights ago (after the Pens beat the Isles in game 1 of the series). He was more than happy to let me try on the '92 ring. Very cool guy!