THREE-TIME CUP CHAMP SAYS GOODBYE
Three-time Memorial Cup champion on to new phase of life
(Windsor, ON) – Thirteen years after first setting foot in the city of Windsor, Joey Garland says he could have never imagined where his life as a Spitfire would take him. Thousands of hours on the road, hundreds of players and a multitude of people he met while with the organization all started, as it has to, from lean beginnings.
“I was a kid fresh out of school, looking for a job,” Garland recalled about showing up at the old Windsor Arena in the fall of 2005. “When I came for my interview, (then head coach) Moe Mantha was running the kids through weave drills on a basketball court. I had no idea what was going on (laughs).”
Hired by then-owner Steve Riolo, Garland set out to figure out the landscape.
“I didn’t know much about the culture. I literally lived at the rink. I spent many nights sleeping on the trainer’s table. I was trying to figure out what I was doing. Trying to immerse myself. To get to know the personalities.”
As if learning the ropes in his new job wasn’t enough, Garland recalls having to take over the added role of equipment manager when a co-worker took sick, something largely unheard of in today’s world of hockey.
“I was sharpening skates, folding towels, washing laundry. Stuff I never imagined would be part of the job description.”
But he was happy to do it. To continue to prove himself.
It’s the type of selfless, team-first attitude that would become synonymous with the very nature of the Carbonear, Newfoundland native.
CHANGES AT THE TOP
After that first season (2005-2006) and all the long hours that came with it, things quickly changed again.
“It was nerve-racking. I worked my butt off to prove myself. To get that next contract. Then the new ownership group – Boogie, Warren and Pete – came in. I was crossing my fingers hoping I would have a job that next year.”
Re-upped with a one-year deal, Garland started fresh, for a second time. He says what helped was the approach the new ownership group brought to the day-to-day operations of the team.
“That’s the one thing I noticed right off the start,” Garland noted. “Right off the hop it was ‘what can we (the ownership group) do to help this team win. There was never any question over whether I, say, needed a certain type of medical tape, or if there was a machine that could help the players.”
After an often painful rebuild in 2006-2007, things really started to take shape.
“It seemed to happen very quickly. They wanted to weed out any bad characters. Anyone who wasn’t going to help us succeed didn’t last long (laughs). We lost a lot that first year. But you could see flashes in the new kids.”
Soon those flashes would turn into a full blown blaze, as the club won its first of back-to-back Memorial Cup titles in the spring of 2009; a year before anyone thought the club would seriously compete, even for a league title.
“Coming off a year in which we won 18 games, followed by a year we made big strides, but still lost in the first round, you have the realization of how hard it is,” Garland said. “And that’s when you start to realize that something special is going on.”
After the 2010 Memorial Cup title,Suddenly, Garland was becoming a well-known figure around the hockey world. He was invited to work with Hockey Canada’s entry at the Ivan Hlinka U-18 tournament overseas, and it was there he would get his first taste of international success, winning a gold medal.
More gigs with the national program would follow, including trips to the World Under-18 Championship and the World Junior Hockey Championship.
“Working with Hockey Canada was such a huge honour,” Garland recalled. “Especially with the World Juniors. You grow up watching that tournament. Knowing I would be part of that and getting to experience it first-hand was amazing.”
In a career filled with notable achievements, Garland, for good reason, is hard-pressed to pick out a single moment that will stick with him most. He says it’s the collection of people he met through hockey that has left the greatest impression.
“The game has given me a lot. The relationships you build. People you see time and time again during your travels. You realize it really is a small world.”
These days, with two young kids and the demands that come with raising a young family, Garland says the time is right to move on to the next chapter.
“It’s all about being around more. I want to be around my kids and my wife. Plus we’ve got four cats and two dogs (laughs). The time is right for the next phase of my life.”