"The Gun" and skeet shootin'... well, not the kind ya' think


One of the more curious characters on the Gears team was the trainer named ‘Gunner’ Garrett.  (I think his real first name was Kenny.)  Over the years, as he got plumper and plumper, he became more and more full of himself, as well (no pun intended).  He saw himself as lord and savior of the team – on par with the owner and the coach.  This perception wasn’t entirely unfounded.  Gunner was left to run minor practices and seemed to have a hand in just about everything the Gears did at one point – stuff quite a bit beyond the duties a trainer usually performs.

One day, the Gears had scheduled a 9am practice – one hour earlier than usual – right after a huge rock concert that had been held in the arena the night before.  We were going to have to work our butts off to get everything ready for the team by this deadline, and as (bad) luck would have it, there was also an unusual amount of mess to clean up that night.  The upshot was that the last phase of the clean-up, which was using oil/gas fueled blowers to get the trash out of the seats, had to be performed during the first part of practice.  I could already see that this was going to cause problems, and sure enough, I was right.
The blowers always filled the still, cold arena air with thick blue smoke, and work was always slow.  Popcorn is tough to direct down the rows of seats.  The Gears came out on the ice skated around for a minute or two, then looked up and saw the cloud.  One by one, they skated back off the ice, and sure enough, here comes Gunner out onto the ice shouting at the top of his lungs at us to turn the blowers off.  I was manning a broom at the time because the guys with seniority were the ones assigned to the blowers.  They looked at Gunner for a moment, then went right back to what they were doing.

Well, Gunner’s head turned tomato-red, and he stomped off the ice and into our foreman’s office.  After a minute or two, they both came out onto the ice and I could see my foreman putting his palms upward as if there was nothing he could do, but after more gesticulating by Gunner, the foreman shouted up to us to turn off the blowers.  One by one the buzzing stopped, but Gunner had to go back on the ice and stare-down the guys like an old wet hen.  The joke was on gunner and the team, however.  Regardless of the blowers being shut down, it always took a good three to four hours for their smoke to clear from the arena, and this morning was no exception:  practice was canceled.

I remember another Gunner story regarding the ‘safety’ of ‘his’ players.  We were quietly cleaning up the seats after a concert that night (no blowers this time) and the Gears had come out onto the ice for practice.  They were skating in a mini-scrimmage and one shot on goal deflected off somebody’s stick and barely missed one of the guys cleaning up orange seats.  “Hey, watch what you’re doing!” our guy called down to the players.  They stopped and looked at one another as if they had just been personally insulted.

The scrimmage thus ended and the ‘skeet shooting’ began.  The players began perfecting their wrist shooting technique by seeing how close they could come to us up in the stands trying to clean up, and we all had to eventually duck out of the way of a flying puck once or twice to avoid getting hit.  (If you have ever been hit by a flying hockey puck, cold and rock-hard from being on the ice, it’s a pain you’ll never forget.)
Finally, things went too far when the guy who had originally called out was toting two large bags of trash to the dumpster in back of the ‘ice pit,’ the hole for ice resurfacing snow residue normally covered with grating, but now was gaping open because the ice had just been given a fresh sheen.  One of the Gears saw his opportunity between the doors opened in the boards, and with a perfectly-timed slapshot, caught the guy right in the back of the head, sending him and the trash-bags tumbling into the snow pit. The Gears roared with laughter, but we had had enough.  We came down out of the stands to help the guy out of the pit and then went into the foreman’s office where his secretary kept a huge pile of discarded hockey pucks.  At first she was reluctant to part with her collection, but when she had heard what had happened, she came right on board.

We all grabbed as many pucks as we could carry and stealthily climbed back up into the stands as if nothing had happened.  We took our places around the arena, then on cue, we let fly with the pucks right at the players.  The pucks rained down on them like a plague of black locusts, and the players scrambled from the ice leaving sticks and gloves behind them.  When they reached the tunnel to the locker rooms, we had a couple of guys stationed there, as well, to give them a couple of last rounds.

There were pucks all over the ice and we all cheered our victory, but this didn’t last long.  After a couple of minutes, here came Gunner flying out of the tunnel onto the ice “madder’n a centipede on a hot rock.”  “These people are PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES!” he bellowed.  I shouldn’t repeat what some of our guys said back to him, but suffice it so say that many of the words began with the letter ‘F.’

Gunner Garrett had his sleezy side too, as was always rumored.  I saw behavior that supported this reputation first hand more than once.  I remember one time after a morning skate, that a bunch of young women had managed to find their way to the door of the Gears locker room and Gunner was holding court there.  We sneaked down to the tunnel to tray and catch what was going on.  Gunner was explaining to the girls that he could ‘arrange’ for them to meet with the Gears, but they had to make it worth his while, so to speak.  I don’t think it’s necessary to draw a diagram!

I, myself, was the recipient of some Gears player’s idea of a joke:  he keyed my brand new Honda Prelude in the team parking lot (where we were allowed to park, too).  I noticed some of the Gears watching me when I came back in after discovering the damage, probably to see what I would do.  At 5’10” and 145 pounds, that wouldn’t be much.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I too worked on the labor crew and they were often at odds with the players and the pranks were 'big kid" stuff as Greg states here. Remember, we loved our team- but not because they were Cub Scouts, rather, because they were hockey players. Players will be players.

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