Saturday, September 26, 2009
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.
Toronto Maple Leafs
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.