Before they were friends, Jason Tansem and Grant Sheridan stood on opposite benches during a midget triple-A game.
It was “ages ago,” as Tansem put it, but it planted the seed for a relationship that continued for years. Tansem, general manager of the Kelowna Chiefs in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, said when he returned to Kelowna, they kept in touch.
“Kept our friendship going and hung out with each other. Just the way the world worked,” he says.
Tansem began getting involved with the KIJHL club, starting as an assistant coach with Ken Andrusiak. Things morphed and Tansem became the head coach and part of the ownership group.
“The Kelowna Chiefs for us has been a hobby,” Tansem said as the club prepared to honour his late friend during Friday’s home-opener.
“We both own our own businesses. This is our hobby. A lot of guys have golf memberships and play men’s hockey, those types of things. We put our efforts and time into the Kelowna Chiefs. I definitely miss that part with him. We enjoyed being around each other and hanging out. Definitely there is a void without him there.”
Sheridan died in July after contracting bacterial meningitis. He was admitted to hospital during a playoff series against the Revelstoke Grizzlies this March.
The Chiefs are to honour Sheridan during their home opener Friday with a special ceremony as they host the Chase Heat at Rutland Arena at 7 p.m.
KIJHL commissioner Larry Martel says Sheridan was one of the hardest working guys out there.
“He was always incredibly honest. Whether you wanted to hear it, or not, he told you what he thought, and was almost always right,” says Martel. “He got into the situation a little deeper. Those little things that prop up when you are dealing with 20 teams, he didn’t like the bullshit. Just get to the point, and move on. Very strong business tactics. Just a very sincere, honest guy.”
Martel and Tom Bachynski, the KIJHL chairman of the board, combined to have “GS” stickers on team uniforms this season. The Chiefs will also sell the stickers as a fundraiser for Sheridan’s favourite charities — MindRight, founded by Chiefs captain Myles Mattila, and the Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs.
“Let someone else benefit from it. With his legacy, and everything he has left behind, it was a no-brainer,” says Tansem, who was shocked by the response to the stickers, saying his phone “blew up” with people wanting them.
Tansem isn’t sure how many stickers have been sold, but donations totalled $2,500. The Chiefs covered expenses for the stickers.
“If you know Grant, Grant didn’t do anything for free,” says Tansem. “Grant was always about conducting commerce, and that was the one thing we always joked about.”
Martel says Sheridan, despite his gruff and grumpy exterior, cared about a lot of people.
“If you were a player for him, he treated you like you were a son,” says Martel. “You were family. He did that with everybody he was in business with. He was just a very caring individual. He had a real strong sarcasm. He made you laugh and you wondered if he was serious half the time.”
Chiefs player Myles Mattila credits Sheridan for mentoring him as he started MindRight, a charity to help end stigmas around mental health.
“I’m very fortunate to have met Grant Sheridan, he was a great owner, general manager, good friend and mentor,” Mattila said.