VANCOUVER — He is Sami Salo’s replacement on the Vancouver Canucks’ defence and Jason Garrison arrived with a groin injury.
A comedy writer could not have scripted it any better, but thankfully there is a happy ending.
Garrison is ready to play and so, finally, is the National Hockey League.
“I am extremely excited that it worked out finally and we are able to get back on the ice,” Garrison said Monday. “Obviously, for me it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Garrison is the new kid in town even though he grew up less than an hour from Rogers Arena. The 28-year-old White Rock native was Vancouver’s marquee free-agent signing last summer when he inked a six-year deal that pays him $4.6 million a season.
He continued to collect that salary for much of the lockout while receiving treatment for a stubborn groin injury that he now hopes is behind him. He was cleared to play by the Canucks’ medical staff recently and Garrison joked that the conversation was a short one.
“It was pretty simple,” he said after skating with some of his teammates at UBC. “I felt like I was good to go and I told them I was good to go. That was it.”
Garrison figures to be a nice addition to Vancouver’s top four on defence. He collected 33 points last season with the Florida Panthers and his 16 goals were surpassed only by fellow defencemen Shea Weber and Erik Karlsson, who each scored 19.
The Canucks in recent years have relied on getting some serious scoring from their defence and Garrison should only make them more dangerous in that regard. But he stressed Monday that he is not a one-trick pony.
“I like to think of myself as a two-way player,” he said. “I’m physical, can shoot the puck, but I think it’s about working out of your own end first, working hard in your own end, getting pucks up and being first on pucks and wearing them down and then letting that go and starting on the offence. This team is super offensive, so it’s going to be a little different for me.”
While he is excited to play at home in front of family and friends, Garrison suggested that wasn’t the main reason he chose to sign with Vancouver last July 1.
“I think first and foremost I want to win,” he said. “Everything else that comes with that is a bonus.”
It seems likely that Garrison could find himself paired with Alex Edler. The two have got to know one another well during the lockout. While Garrison was receiving treatment for his groin, Edler was having a bad back dealt with by the Canuck training staff.
“Obviously, we were hurt together there so we have been spending a lot of time together, a lot of time off the ice,” Edler said. “He’s a great guy and if I get to play with him I think that would be good.”
The condensed 48-game schedule that is expected to begin Jan. 19 could test both Garrison and Edler, but Garrison is confident he’s good to go.
“Honestly, I am not too concerned,” he said. “I am no different than every other player. Everyone is battling something. Everyone is going to be in the same position. I think it is how you prepare yourself to start the season.”
Although he only recently began skating with his new teammates, Garrison has spent plenty of time with several of them off the ice.
“I have probably been to dinner with him as much as anybody on the team so far,” fellow defenceman Kevin Bieksa said of Garrison. “He has spent a lot of time with a lot of the guys already and it feels like he has been on the team for four years already.”
“He is maybe a little more physical than Sami was, he’s got the big shot like Sami, maybe he likes to jump up into the play a little bit more. I have been skating and working out with him for four months now, but it seems like he’s hungry, he wants to play, this is where he wanted to be … so it’s going to be fun to have him aboard.”