Before they were friends, Jason Tansem and Grant Sheridan stood opposite each other on opposing benches during a midget AAA game.
This was “ages ago” as Tansem put it, but it planted the seed for their relationship. Tansem, general manager of the Kelowna Chiefs in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL), reflected and 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,” says Tansem, as the club gets ready to honour his late friend. “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.”
The Chiefs will honour Sheridan’s family during their home opener on Sept. 20 with a special ceremony as they host the Chase Heat at Rutland Arena at 7 p.m. Tansem advises fans not to wait to purchase tickets at the door as they could be sold out by then. To purchase tickets, visit www.kelownchiefs.com.
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 bull—-. Just get to the point, and move on. Very strong business tactics. Just a very sincere, honest guy.”
The KIJHL is honouring Sheridan with GS patches, which Martel and Tom Bachynski, the KIJHL chairman of the board, came up with. The Chiefs decided to sell GS stickers as a fundraiser for his favourite charities – MindRight, founded by Chiefs captain Myles Mattila, and the Boys and Girls Club.
“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 approximately $2,500. The Chiefs made sure that expenses for the stickers were covered.
“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 a 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.”
Terry Jones, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks coach, knew Sheridan since he joined the league in 2010-11, when the Heat relocated to Kelowna.
“It’s a terrible loss for our league. For hockey in Kelowna, it’s life getting in the way,” says Jones. “Nothing but sadness for him and his family.”
Martel attended the funeral and said more than 1,000 came to pay their respects.
“It was packed. It shows the kind of person he was,” says Martel. “He was one of the good ones.”
Jones says that Sheridan was a real builder for the Kelowna franchise, adding they have done done extremely well, coming close to winning the KIJHL several times.
“Grant has been a successful business man. I think he has helped create that rivalry in the Okanagan,” says Jones. “Grant saw the vision for how to succeed. How junior B hockey could succeed in that Okanagan market. There is a lot of hockey in that market. As far as a builder of our league, he fits that mold.”
Heat coach Brad Fox says the Sheridan family lost an amazing human-being.
“He was an ambassador to our league. For the work he did, the division he had, he is going to be greatly missed by everyone in our league,” he says. “Keep that vision alive with that vision he implemented.”
Tansem says its means a lot that all KIJHL teams have GS stickers on their players’ helmets.
“What it does is it really shows just how many people he touched. What people thought of him. He reached a lot of people. At a lot of the league meetings we had battles. Grant was very well respected. His opinions and thoughts were valued by everybody. It’s a testament to who he was for sure,” says Tansem.
“Just the passion he had for everything he did,” continued Tansem. “He was all in or he wouldn’t do it.”