Train of Thought: Remembering John Garrett’s Time in Colour

By: Brayden Fengler and Trent Leith / April 13, 2023  

The Canucks Will Never Sound the Same Again

John Garrett has lived a full life, and believe it or not, it hasn’t all been spent providing punny insights and jovial analysis in the broadcast booth for the Vancouver Canucks. Before Cheech was Cheech on the mic, he was Cheech on the ice.

John played as a goaltender and was drafted into the NHL by the St. Louis Blues in 1971. Garrett would go on to play for a whole host of NHL teams during his early career as a professional hockey player. After being drafted by the Blues, he graced the ice for their farm team the Kansas City Blues, followed by a multitude of different WHL, WHA and NHL teams over the next 10 years, including the Portland Buckaroos (WHL), Richmond Robins (AHL), Minnesota Fighting Saints (WHA), Toronto Toros (WHA), Birmingham Bulls (WHA), New England/Hartford Whalers (WHA, NHL) and the Quebec Nordiques before he was traded by Quebec during the 1982-83 season, and would end up playing the remaining three years of his NHL career in Vancouver.

After Garrett’s playing career was over he was even offered an AGM role by then Canucks GM Harry Neale. Unfortunately for John, Neale would be sacked shortly after the offer was made, resulting in the offer never formally materializing. The rest as they say is history, as broadcasting would end up being the next venture for Garrett.

For many Canucks fans this is how they’ve grown to know John Garrett, as the ketchup-loving, intelligent and affable colour voice for the Canucks. It’s hard to imagine watching a game without hearing his voice, although all too soon that will be a reality for us all. Until that reality sinks in next season, it’s more than worth taking a trip down memory lane to see how John impacted so many people that have tuned in to watch this team that he’s lent his voice to for oh so many years.

John might not fully grasp the impact he has had on many people. When you watch a hockey game, just as much of the experience is audible as it is visual. John was the voice of the Canucks, and as a result, the voice of many’s upbringing. There are emotions attached to John’s departure, it goes beyond a change of voice. In many ways, it is a change of heart.

Ryan Schaap, Pucks on Net Podcast@schaaptop

I felt emotional, to say the least, when John Garrett announced his ‘retirement’ from Vancouver Canucks regional games. I can safely say I’ve watched every Canucks game possible since I was in grade 9 following the West Coast Express into the playoffs against the Detroit Red Wings in 2002. John Garrett was there to tell the story then, he was there to tell the story when the Canucks were dominant back-to-back President’s Trophy winning teams and he was here telling the story and make us laugh through the last miserable eight years we’ve had here in Vancouver.

I will be sad to see him go. His voice echoes through some of my favourite memories. His voice reminds me of high school. His voice reminds me of my dad. His voice reminds me of happiness and celebration. And his voice reminds me of heartbreak and apathy.

The Sportsnet Pacific on-air team inspired me to go into broadcasting and they have been there for every game we’ve consumed since creating our Pucks On Net podcast. While all things must come to an end, it’s an unfortunate reminder and realization of how old we are. But just as much, it is a beautiful reminder of how lucky we were to have such a great man be such an important voice and a constant presence in our lives as Canucks fans.

Cheech, I will miss your voice, but I will never forget it!

Garrett’s retirement can feel like a heavy cross to bear for many Canucks fans for the simple reason that his voice spans generations. Many who started watching the Canucks during Garrett’s tenure likely started doing so with their parents or family members that they either lived with or visited frequently when they were young. This no doubt caused Garrett’s voice to become intertwined with those of family and friends, whom fans shared their experience of watching the Canucks with over the years. There’s also a good chance that many of those fans from the early days of Garrett’s time with the team no longer live with those same relatives who they started their Canucks watching journey with.

For many, Garrett’s voice acted as a weekly time machine transporting Canucks fans young and old back to those earlier times in life, earlier memories of enjoying the game with the ones they love. With Garrett’s retirement, many Canucks fans are losing that feeling of always having another family member in the room with them while watching a Canucks game.

Lorne Gardner – @ThatGuy72

I, a 90’s kid who didn’t fully immerse myself in hockey until the West Coast Express era, am one of those Canucks fans that had John Garrett and his glorious moustache as part of my hockey watching experience since day one.

He was so smart, such a lover of the game and a homer-without-being-a-HOMER, if you will. Very much the anti-Jack Edwards.

His natural charisma and chemistry with John Shorthouse made even the roughest slogs of games in the post-2011, pre-Petey/Hughes days not just tolerable but must-watch TV.

Chester Ming – @ChesterM222

I grew into a fan in the WCE days, so I grew up listening to Cheech and Jim Hughson and it’l be strange to no longer have him on regional broadcasts since I really don’t have much memory of anyone else. My favorite memory that sticks out was when him and Shorty lost it giggling in the booth when AV couldn’t stop laughing at Vernon Fiddler that one time. Either that or the time someone farted on air this year.

Trevor Beggs, Daily Hive Vancouver and Locked On Canucks Podcast@TrevBeggs

It’s crazy to think that if Harry Neal wasn’t fired as Canucks GM in 1985, John Garrett might have had a career as in Canucks management as opposed to Canucks broadcasting.

Thankfully for fans, it was the latter that transpired.

For anyone under the age of 35, Garrett was a voice you grew up with as a fan of this team. He brought an infectious & positive energy to the broadcast, which meant a lot in recent years which were, well, not so good.

I met him a couple of times out in the real world, and his reputation of being just a genuine dude really shone through. Count me in as one of many who will miss hearing his voice regularly on broadcasts.

John simply embodied what it means to be a professional in the realm of hockey and sports media. You know he was always speaking from the heart. Whether his opinion was congratulatory or constructive, He never shied away from being truthful with Canucks fans in regard to how he saw the play developing on the ice.

For many years (years we’re still in) the on-ice product has been easier to critique than celebrate, and with that has brought on exhaustion from the fan base. Although John was never one to call a poor play or a sloppy move, he always found ways to highlight the little moments and make the game more fun to watch.

Sometimes that involved giving air-time to an unsung play that a player made in a corner of the ice that drew little attention. Other times it was pointing out that two bald coaches “aren’t going to lose any hair” over a close call that was under review. John had a way to keep this market engaged even when the product itself often failed to do so.

Doug Venn, Canucks Speak Easy Podcast@dougvenn

John Garrett never shied away from showing his fandom, yet he always maintained an objective view on the team, often calling out a poor performance. He and Shorty had that ‘it’ factor that so few broadcasting teams do. Witty banter, light-hearted jokes, genuine love for one another, all while calling a game with incredible description and detail. We’ll miss you Cheech, enjoy retirement.

Rob Williams, National Sports Editor of Daily Hive Vancouver@RobTheHockeyGuy

The thing I’ll miss most about John Garrett on Canucks broadcasts is his humour. In an 82-game season, there are inevitably a few duds especially so for the Vancouver Canucks in recent years. That’s why the job of broadcasters isn’t just about detailing the game, it’s also about entertaining.

Garrett, along with his longtime broadcast partner John Shorthouse, get that. Garrett could tell you what he likes to put ketchup on, or how he enjoys eating whatever product Safeway is pitching in-game, and then seamlessly go back to talking about the game.

I loved it, each and every time.

Whether it’s getting on his soapbox, or his banter with Shorty, Garrett was always fun to listen to. And at 71 years old, he hasn’t missed a beat.

John was always fun to listen to, he was easy to listen to and he made the product better. John was like your favourite high school teacher. You learned from them, but you never felt like you were learning from them and you enjoyed your time with them. John was the same way, you got to know John over the airwaves, and you got to appreciate him as a person, not just as a colour commentator. His ability to elevate the hockey game into something fun and informative was something that few have ever accomplished on the level he did.

Grady Sas, Director of Content for Go Goat Sprots – @GradySas

What stands out the most with John was that he was an entertainer & storyteller first, which you don’t always get in sports broadcasting, at least now right away. There’s a lot of “analysis” guys out there who don’t know how to entertain an audience and are stuck in a more of an X’s & O’s mentality, which can be boring to some.

Personality can take years to craft, and John certainly figured out how to be personable. He was informed on the mic as anyone and his stories were captivating. He always seemed upbeat despite how poor or good the Canucks were playing on any particular night. And over the final decade of his career, there have been more rough nights than good ones. From his love of food and ketchup to reminiscing about old Canucks that played in the 70s and onwards, Cheech knew how to entertain people like it was show business.

He was easy to listen to and could appeal to the most casual or intense hockey fans around. That goes a long way in broadcasting when you can add those elements on top of being just a hockey analyst. Compound that with his 50+ years of experience around hockey – especially when you’re a former goalie and you’ve seen thousands of different plays develop in front of you – and you get a great multi-faceted broadcaster. He has that wise grandfather type of presence to him who knows when to keep it light. You saw the tributes from other teams, broadcasts and executives gave to him because of how respected he was. Plus, who doesn’t love a guy who stuffs hot dogs in his pants and stops frozen rubber pucks simultaneously?

Thanks Cheech, you’ve been a huge inspiration to many in the industry like myself. Hope to see you soon again back on television.

Cheerio Cheech

It’s been said countless times by the thoughts shared in this article, but John Garrett will be sorely missed in Vancouver. There is an entire generation of Canucks fans that have known nothing except “John and John on the call” for our whole lives. Vancouver fans have been spoiled with some of the best broadcasters in sports through the iconic duo of Cheech and Shorty, but finally, at age 71, he is hanging up his headset.

While Garrett may still return to broadcasting with Sportsnet here and there, his full-time team coverage ends with the 2022-23 campaign. As he looks to retirement, it’s hard not to think of how it’s a shame he couldn’t cover a Stanley Cup win. Lucky for the fans, he made the unbearable lows over the last decade worth every second of a fan’s attention with his unwavering charm and outgoing personality.

What the future holds, we have no idea. We don’t know who will step into Garrett’s shoes, but what a monumental task they have ahead of themselves. As for Garrett, we wish him even just a fraction of the happiness and joy he brought to all of us in his retirement.