Police Academy

“How old are you?” asked the officer.

“28,” I replied.

“Wow,” he said, “it took you 28 years before winding up here, that’s not too bad.”

It was only a matter of time; sooner or later I knew I’d end up in a cop car.

Traveling with the Vancouver Canucks is, obviously, all about travel. Planes, buses, cars, you name it, if it has wheels, it plays a part in getting the team around at one time or another on the road.

Friday in New Jersey while the team was loading the bus I noticed a pair of police cars parked nearby. You know me by now, you know that I had to inquire as to what was going on. Maybe Sami Salo’s slapshot is considered a weapon in New Jersey?

Next thing I knew officer Jay Harrison was escorting me into police car 869.

I couldn’t have been happier.

I thought this might be my only opportunity to willingly ride in a cop car and trooper Harrison had never had a ride along before, so although he groaned and only said yes after I swore I wouldn’t touch anything, I think the was happy to have me along.

It was clear I made the right decision opting out of the team bus in favour of this when Harrison had to clean unused shotgun shells off the passenger seat before I got in.

First rule of the ride along, put your seat belt on.

Second rule: Don’t ask if they’ve ever shot anyone. I didn’t. I just assume all cops are bad asses who do whatever it takes to protect wimps like me from having their lunch money stolen.

Third rule: Don’t watch Brooklyn’s Finest the night before an unplanned ride along.

And awayyyy we go!

Two cars escort the team bus and a town car containing John Shorthouse and John Garrett (prima donnas!); one police car in front, which Dan Murphy road along in, and ours in the back.

The reason for the escort is simple: the Canucks would still be fighting traffic on their way to the Prudential Center in Newark were they unable to weave their way through the mess of congested cars, vans, trucks, semis and whatnot on the interstate.

The ride lasted 30 minutes and during that time Harrison and I shot the breeze – poor choice of wording there, nothing was shot during our trip.

It’s crazy how little people care there are cop cars on the road though, cop cars with red and blue lights flashing and sirens blaring like an annoying buzzer alarm clock at 7 a.m.

“You know, they should put lights on our cars so people can see us,” Harrison joked over the two-way radio with the sergeant in the lead car.

“It’s funny, people see us and you think they’d just stop for a second and consider letting us through to do our job, but no, it’s kamikaze,” he told me.

Moving a bus through lanes of packed traffic is as difficult as it sounds, but this is a thrilling assignment for Harrison, a nine-year trooper, who works for a tactical unit that does a lot of dignitary escorting when high profile people are in town.

The President, Tiger Woods, the Super Bowl winning New York Giants a few weeks ago, Harrison has worked with them all. Knowing that, I was intrigued by his enthusiasm for driving the Canucks.

Like many, Harrison, a goalie for the police hockey team, has Luongo-itis.

“Some people you’re more happy to escort than others,” laughed Harrison, who is working his first shift since the birth of his second child, a baby boy, last week. “I’m a big fan of his.”

Harrison and I talked for another 15 minutes, he told me tales of dealing with golfers like Phil Mickelson and Boo Wheatley, then there was a pause in the conversation, one that I filled questioning if being a trooper was really as glamorous as he was making it sound.

“Before I got into this position, a lot of what I did had a lot of nastiness to it. I think the stories from the dignitary work are a lot better, they don’t end with any sadness or any of that other stuff. Some guys prefer that work, I’m liking this.”

And I loved this.

Once at the Prudential Center we shook hands and I was on my way. I didn’t get too far into the rink before realizing I forgot to ask, as a trooper, if Harrison was offended by the droll movie Super Troopers.

I think I have his number, I’ll give him a call and ask right meow.