The Mountain Times

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Rockin’ the Region with Team Canada

Jack Daniels week is synonymous with good drinks, good food and good people. The past few years it has also meant our friends from the North come to town to join in the fun - and create a bunch of their own. Most know them collectively as Team Canada.

Back in 1990, Peter Whittier was invited on a ski trip by 3 fellow bartenders and said, "Sure why not." They were living in Quebec at the time but wanted to check out Killington. It was pouring rain the entire drive down, but that didn't stop them. They stopped at a local store to get some Meisterbrau and checked into the North Star Lodge for two nights. Whittier only skied a half day the entire trip due to his focus on the party scene. He came back the following year and every year since.

In 1993, he doubled the size of the group and rented an eight-passenger van. In 1994, he found a cool place online, The Owl House, on West Park Road and that has been the team's home away from home. The group continued to grow in size so they stepped it up a bit and rented a rock and roll tour bus. They used one company for eight years until it went belly up. By that point they had grown accustomed to the rock and roll lifestyle so they needed to commandeer another bus. Fellow team member Kato had a good friend who owned a bus, which was occasionally used for national acts like the Tragically Hip and other famous groups. The friend agreed to loan them the bus as long as it wasn't needed, so now Kato now drives them to Killington. These guys might not be a national act in the traditional sense, but they certainly steal the Killington stage during Jack week each winter.

The bus is amazing. It has 12 bunks, a front lounge with couches, refrigerator, bathroom and a back lounge, too. "It's like traveling with your basement," Whittier says of the bus. It's basically a "Man Cave" on wheels. When Kato isn't driving it, they'll hire a driver and Whittier will make sure he has the itinerary and Kato will fill him in on the ins and outs of the trip.

They have only one rule the diver must agree to: "Get us home in one piece." Three years ago the driver told them he wanted to set the record for most people on the bus, which was 36. That's the night I met Peter Whittier while I was DJing at Charity's, the last night of their trip. So after the bar closed they invited everyone on - they fell three short, but it was a valiant effort. They've lucked out over the years with great drivers, Whittier says, "The driver is part of our team. We make him feel comfortable and we haven't horrified any yet."

In 1993 the first person they met here was Rick Redington who was playing the small stage at the Outback. He was playing a Neil Young song and the team immediately started to sing along. Each year they go back to see him. In 1998, they met Outback bartender/manager Linda Ross, former GM Skip Watts and bartender Samurai who all became friends.

It was 2000, when "Team Canada" was officially born, even though they'd been coming here for 10 years at that point. Ross took them under her wing and made them feel super welcome. Besides the Outback, they fell in love with Peppers next door, which is now Wally's. They especially loved the $1 drafts and fresh squeezed O.J. in their Absolut Screws. That year they also discovered Mother Shapiros as a hot spot for the team.

Nine years ago they hooked up with the Jack Daniels guys and were praised for their support of all the events JD hosts mid-February. Now they come specifically for the Jack Daniels Week in Killington. Team Canada compliments JD week like maple syrup does for morning pancakes.

They may not have horrified any drivers but they sure did horrify many a bartender. One time they were asked to leave the Wobbly Barn for doing a flaming wallet trick, where Magic Mike opens up his wallet and an inch flame pops out. I guess I'm the only one who thinks this is a great trick, but perhaps best outside the bars.

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Over the years, they've become friends with many and come back every year because of the love that Killington shows them. When Whittier goes to the Lookout, he stands behind the bar with Samurai. It's recognition and, sometimes, special treatment that creates an irreplaceable experience for the team.

When new people hear that Team Canada is in town, they often wonder 'for what team?' One year someone asked who they were and they said they were the Junior Canadian Bobsled Team. Even though they live in ski country, they're admittedly not great skiers. One time Steve Nutter, now living in Tahoe, took them skiing and said, "You guys are Team Canada, I thought you'd be good skiers." Nope, they just like to party. But most people now knows that Team Canada is not athletically minded. The majority of the group is from Ontario and Toronto but others travel farther and separately to join the group for the reunion. One guy lives in Colorado, flies to Buffalo, gets on the bus and they drop him off at the airport on the way back. The other members this year include, 12 guys from Ontario, Phil and his crew from D.C. and three guys who drive in from Montreal.

They will be 18 strong, proudly saluting the Canadian flag. Strong may not be the right word. They lost that distinction years ago at Charity's when there was a USA vs. Canada arm wrestling contest. USA won with Philly Mike Keenan.

But they do excel at the Broomball competition held each year at the Summit Pond, keeping true to their Canadian hockey roots.

The "Olympics" which this year are February 21 at the Summit Pond are exciting because of the USA vs. Canada rivalry. Two years ago when USA played Canada in hockey in the actual Olympics, they watched it at the Lookout and tried to make a bet with owner Phil Black. Whittier had proposed: "If Canada wins you pay our tab and if USA wins we'll double our tab." Phil thought about it for a bit but ultimately refused the bet. It was smart move since Canada won the gold.

Team Canada was only 20 strong rooting for their homeland that evening, compared with the 100 plus rooting against them but when Crosby scored the winning goal, you'd have thought the numbers were reversed. One TC member even jumped up on the bar and danced, knocking over drinks in the process, but having a good ol' time. Of course, being the polite guys that they are, they apologized. Phil Black said it was an awesome display of enthusiasm and made the game more fun for everyone there.

That story illustrates one key reason Team Canada loves Killington and we love them back. Except, perhaps, when they're beating us for gold...

You can find them at every bar in town. Just look for the bus and join in the fun. The bus will roll into town Thursday morning and head straight to the Clear River Tavern to see Jason Evans for a private breakfast, then, let the party begin!