Coach Captain — a Blazer through and through
He isn’t a bus driver.
He’s a coach captain and Brennan Driedger is an integral part of the Kamloops Blazers.
The 35-year-old Kamloops product, known as CC (short for coach captain) by most, has been behind the wheel of the Blazers’ coach since 1999, the first year of the Dean Evason era.
“I feel like I am part of the team,” said Driedger, whose family owns Canada West Coachlines.
“I’m treated like part of the team and I am one of the team members, really.”
Hockey players often say a great deal of a team’s identity is found on the road, where tight quarters and long stretches of driving accelerate the speed of bonding.
And, there is always one man awake when the rest might be sleeping, ready to listen, ready to talk.
“When you’re on the road, you have your own family away from your family at home,” said Driedger, who was married this summer to his girlfriend of three years, Rachel.
“I’ve known some of these kids since they were 16 and I’m pretty close to these guys.”
The majority of good conversation is had after a win, though, as the atmosphere on the bus after a loss is depressing, to say the least.
“When we win, the guys are happy and there’s chit-chat on the bus,” said Driedger, who’s only been involved in two near-crash situations in 16 years of driving buses.
“There’s usually a couple honks after we win, leaving the arena.
“When we lose, we get on the bus and there’s pretty much no words said. We always drive at night and I hit blizzards and have nobody to talk to. It’s not a good vibe.”
The big losses — and there have been quite a few of them in recent years — weigh heavily on Driedger, just as they do on players, coaches and management.
“I feel sorry for the guys and I know they work hard,” Driedger said.
“I want to see the team succeed.”
There are two things that tend to get on Driedger’s nerves, the first, not surprisingly, being players who have a tendency to leave their trash on the bus.
“I say to the guys before the season, ‘I’m not your maid and I’m not here to clean up after your mess’,” Driedger said.
“Once they’re on the bus, I’m their coach, too.
“I won’t take the BS.”
There is also one nickname — Bussy — that Driedger would prefer not to be called.
“They call me Bussy,” said Driedger, who drives the team in a 2003 Prevost H3-45, a 57,000-pound bus with three axles and eight wheels.
“There’s usually a few choice words if that happens because, hey, I’ve got a career and I’ve got an education.”
Driedger is the maintenance supervisor at Canada West Coachlines. He runs a bus-repair shop which employs four mechanics.
The club’s longtime bus driver has been lucky enough to travel with a lot of very funny people, one of his favourites being former Blazers’ D-Man Ryan Bender.
“He was a character,” Driedger said.
Current Blazers’ captain Chase Schaber has his moments, too, Driedger said.
“Schabes, he’s pretty funny. He’s usually got a funky hairdoo and his shiny, mirror glasses.”
One of the least-favourable parts of Driedger’s job comes in the early hours of the morning, when faint chatter turns to snoring.
KTW asked Driedger who takes the cake for all-time loudest snorer.
“[Former Blazers’ play-by-play man] Kirk Fraser, definitely Kirk Fraser,” Driedger replied without hesitation.
“Don’t share a room with him, it won’t work.”
The Driedger family has had the Kamloops franchise’s driving contract since the early 1980s, when the club was called the Junior Oilers.
Driedger and his father, Bernie, have spent countless hours on the road, often braving treacherous winter conditions and doing their part to make sure the team arrives home safe.
The younger Driedger might not have too many years left behind the Blazers’ wheel, as he plans to stay closer to home when children become part of his life.
That likely won’t be an easy transition for Driedger — he loves driving rig for his surrogate hockey family.
“I can’t wait to get back on the road,” Driedger said.
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