The man behind the wheel of the Vancouver Giants ‘Fanboni’ is a feisty 74-year-old Scotsman who was a crackerjack pugilist in his day.
The irony is, North Delta resident Jock McGrandle never played or coached hockey.
He began volunteering with the Western Hockey League team more than a decade ago as something to do in his golden years.
Volunteer-wise, McGrandle is ‘Mr. Everything’ in the eyes of the G-Men. The retired pressman (Pac Press) drives the team’s ‘Fanboni,’ ensures singers are ready to belt out the anthem(s), and helps organize the Giants’ intermission entertainment.
He’s such a valuable helper, in fact, the Giants name their annual Volunteer of the Year Award after him.
“I’ve been with the Giants since ’06 and they haven’t fired me yet,” McGrandle said. “I’m still around.”
McGrandle’s connection with the Giants started off low-key.
“I was a soccer player and a boxer in my day,” McGrandle told the Times by phone in his thick Scottish accent.
“I retired in 2006. My young nephew out of Edmonton, Charles Wells, he was a great little hockey player. I was hoping he was going to get drafted by the Giants, but he got drafted by the Seattle Thunderbirds.”
Hence McGrandle’s connected to the WHL.
One night in the pre-season, McGrandle went to Sungod Arena near his North Delta home to watch his nephew play against the Giants.
Once there, he met Giants senior vice president Dale Saip and the two chatted about possible volunteer opportunities.
They spoke by phone the next day and McGrandle soon started helping out.
While McGrandle didn’t know a whole lot about hockey when he began volunteering with the team, he’s well-versed in the ‘Sweet Science.’
“I won the 1960 Golden Gloves championship in Edmonton and I won the Golden Boy award, and I also won a 1942 Chevy because my dad said if I joined boxing and if by chance I win the Golden Boy award he’d give me his car,” McGrandle said.
“And so he did — he gave me the keys to his car!”
‘Fanboni,’ not Zamboni
At every Giants home game, McGrandle chauffeurs young fans around the ice in a ‘Fanboni.’
He’s quick to point out that it’s not a Zamboni (he does a lot of things for the Giants but ice cleaning isn’t one of them).
“We took the meat out of a Zamboni and made it into a ‘Fanboni.’ So when we have kids or families coming to the game, and there’s a birthday party or a celebration or something, then we’ll give them a ride on the ‘Fanboni,’” McGrandle said.
“It doesn’t take long to have a little swipe around the ice, all the kids are wavin’, they’re on the Jumbo Tron, so it’s a lot of fun.”
McGrandle is also in charge of helping the anthem singers.
“When it comes time to sing the anthem, I go and get the microphone and meet the anthem singer, and make sure they’re at the spot where they’re supposed to be,” McGrandle said.
Being that he’s retired, McGrandle says he’s got “tons of time” to get to the Langley Events Centre on game days.
“Some days are quite busy,” he said, noting his role in helping to organize the fans’ races during the intermissions at games. “There’s a lot of different things we do to entertain the fans.”
A bonus is rubbing shoulders with future NHLers including Giants’ alumni Brendan Gallagher (Montreal Canadiens) and Milan Lucic (Edmonton Oilers)
“We have golf tournaments every year and the alumni comes to the tournaments, so over the years I’ve gotten to know a lot of the young lads that have come through the Giants and are now multi-millionaires in the NHL,” he said.
Just how long McGrandle will continue volunteering with the Giants depends entirely on his health. He turns 75 on Nov. 23 and admits arthritis is “settin’ in.”
“I’ll continue on until my body tells me that maybe I’d better take a rest,” McGrandle said.