With a clean shaven face to represent a fresh start, Darren Pattison, the Ghostriders equipment manager, sat down eagerly. Proudly wearing his sun stained Ghostriders cap and a light blue sweater with the words ‘Fernie Snow Valley’ sprawled across it, he carried the air of a man irrevocably in love with the place he calls home.
Before beginning he paused, reaching for his glasses with a gleeful grin. At fifty years old, Pattison still ceaselessly exhibits the unyielding and contagious optimism that has him renowned throughout town. Exuberating a zest for life, he began speaking about his time with the Ghostriders.
“Going on for 23 years,” he said, referring to the amount of time he worked with the Riders.
At his last game as equipment manager on Saturday, the Ghostriders brought Pattison onto centre ice and presented him with a gift. It was a personalized Riders jacket, adorned with past logos, his name, and the number 23, a thank you for his devotion, assistance, and most importantly his infectious attitude. Standing in his usual spot beside the team’s bench, he let the arena’s fervour wash over him one last time, smiling in his new windbreaker.
The Riders biggest fan, Pattison became a constant throughout the years. He was with the team through everything from wins to losses, championships to injuries, comebacks to fights. Stepping down to focus on other facets of his life, Pattison sees his leaving as a bittersweet yet timely progression.
“I’m excited to have free time, but I’ll miss them,” Pattison said.
The Riders originally reached out to Pattison decades ago, asking for help with their equipment but surely not expecting the devotion and passion he filled the role with.
“I just started with putting the water bottles out, putting the pucks out, putting the ice bags out,” Pattison listed. “I’m just the water boy.”
However any Ghostrider will tell you Darren was far from just the water boy, he was an integral pillar of team morale.
“I like watching it and helping them out, making sure they win,” Pattison said.
As he sifted through memories from the last 23 years, the nightly puck toss stood out as one of his favourites. Pattison found great joy in heading onto the ice, rallying the crowd, and involving himself in the game. He also thought back with jittery enthusiasm about the time two goalies fought during a match, moments he will sweetly reflect on for years to come.
While Pattison will surely miss the team, the feeling is reciprocated by everyone in the Ghostriders community.
“It’s sad. He’s seen lots of successes and championships, and his work definitely did not go unnoticed and was super appreciated,” said current head coach Jeff Wagner. “He is always a happy go lucky guy, always joking with the team. It will definitely be an element that we are going to miss next year and it will be hard to replace him. But we are happy that he was there.”
Pattison will be leaving the Riders in the hands of his good friend, Brader Rotvold.
“I’m going to miss him, he brought cheer and brightness,” said Rotvold.
As Saturday’s game ended and Darren took to the ice one final time, the crowd rose to their feet again. They cheered for him, shouted out his name and clapped, honouring him for his commitment, happiness, and passion working alongside the Riders for all those years.
Pattison leaves the team on a high, as they go into the playoffs in great standing.
“I hope they go all the way!” cheered Pattison, who will surely attend their games from the stands for years to come.
Up next for Pattison is simply taking life day by day. He looks forward to having more free time to take care of his mother, Diane, whom he is very close with. He is also excited to indulge in more walks with his dog, Java, a Brussels Griffon that he is always thrilled to share photos of.
Pattison is thankful for all of the connections he has made throughout his time with the Riders, taking immense pride in being able to walk around town and recognize faces he met at games. He encourages others to take on positions within the community and show their support for the people and culture of Fernie.