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
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
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
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
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!