Of the five former Florida Panthers on the ice practicing as Vancouver Canucks Saturday, Jason Garrison was by far the most popular.
“Check out those signs,” Garrison grinned as he stepped onto the ice at the JetBlue practice facility at the Saveology.com Iceplex in Coral Springs. “That’s hilarious.”
At the north end of the rink pressed up against the glass were three homemade signs, two neon green, one neon orange. Fire Away Jason, with a picture of a puck shooting out of a canon, read one, Garrison Fan Club read another and The Boothinator, with a photo of a bullseye, was the other.
Behind the signs beamed sisters Renee, Kaylene and Celine Vezina, who took in practice alongside brother Armand Jr. and their parents Armand Sr. and Roni. The Vezina family, all in Panthers jerseys numbered 1-to-6 in descending order, may back the Panthers, but they’ve got a lot of love for Garrison.
Before the bearded beast was firing bombs from Vancouver’s blueline, he patrolled Florida’s for parts of four seasons. In 2009-10 Garrison was up and down between the Panthers and the AHL’s Rochester Americans; during one of his many flights between cities he ran into the Vezina family at the airport. When he became a full-time defenceman with Florida a season later, Garrison noticed a new cheering section dedicated to him.
“They’ve always been great to me, so I’m really glad I could see them today,” said Garrison. “I didn’t think I’d see those signs again,” he laughed.
Garrison visited with the Vezinas, who are indeed related to Georges Vezin, goaltender of the Montreal Canadiens from 1910 until 1925 for whom the NHL’s Vezina Trophy is named after, before practice, he shot pucks their way during and he stopped to say good bye post-practice.
“You saw it today, he’s just a great guy,” said Armand Sr. “He’s always taken the time to make my family and I feel special and show us he appreciates the support and that means a lot to us.
“He’s the type of player you cheer for regardless of what team he’s on.”
That’s a great attitude to have because come Sunday, Garrison will be firing rockets towards his former team. Against a former Vezina-nominated goalie, actually. Some guy named Roberto Luongo, you’ve probably never heard of him.
Cheers from sunny Florida!