Every morning, Jeremy Swayman would walk into the workplace kitchen and engage in a playful shouting match with the guy running it.
“Beauty!” the Bruins goalie would holler.
“Beauty!” Keith Garman would holler back, a bit louder and longer.
They would escalate, back and forth, until the bit sent them toward ridiculous laughter.
“Every morning, Chef would say, ‘How we livin’?’ ” Swayman said. “And I would find a new word. ‘Swimmingly.’ Something fun. That was our thing.”
The Bruins entered the weekend as the hottest team in the NHL (8-1-0), but their mornings have been a lot less fun without their beloved chef.
On Oct. 11, the day before the Bruins’ season opener, Garman was playing in a pickup hockey game when he felt discomfort, left the ice, and collapsed. He died at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Brighton. He was 33.
Garman’s father, Phil, who lives with wife Kim in Johnstown, Pa., said their son was found to have an irregular heartbeat, which led to cardiac arrest. The family is waiting for a medical report. The Bruins and Garman’s loved ones attended an Oct. 16 service in Brighton.
Garman, a graduate of Johnson and Wales culinary school, was considered a rising star in the local restaurant scene while at Alden & Harlow in Cambridge. The Bruins offered him his dream job in August 2018, where Garman, a hockey player since age 5, could unite two of his passions.
“He loved cooking for those players, being in that atmosphere, being at the games, you name it,” Phil Garman said. “He was at a stage where professionally, personally, everything was falling into place for him. He was so happy and content, the last couple years in particular.”
In June, Garman purchased his first home, a condo in South Weymouth. He was fixing it up for himself and his girlfriend of two years, Jasmin Palacios of Brighton.
They met online, after the South Texas native came to Boston to earn a master’s in public health at Boston University. She described him as bright, kind, patient, humble, and hard-working; a surprisingly good dancer and singer with an innate sense of rhythm; and a devoted father of two tuxedo cats, Sherlock and Watson.
“I think he was exactly where he wanted to be in his career,” she said. “He was so happy with life in general. It makes it all that much harder.”
She pulled up a text from Aug. 18, at 8:48 p.m. That month, she and Garman’s family rented a vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and spent two weeks there. They were readying for another hockey season. At that moment, Garman texted her: “I love my life. It’s so good.”
Six days a week, nine months of the year, Garman cooked breakfast and lunch for Bruins players and staff. He prepared take-home meals for several players, including Charlie Coyle, all year long. Garman whipped up post-practice snacks, pregame meals, and late-night dinners. Guided by nutritionist Julie Nicoletti, Garman and assistant chef Mike Schauer fueled a team of high-powered athletes.
In a hockey season that constantly drains their physical and emotional reserves, Garman helped them recharge. His kitchen was a haven for them. The Bruins would connect with Chef Keith, then each other as they readied for the next game.
“If you didn’t know him, he was super quiet and did his thing,” Patrice Bergeron said. “But he opened up. He was funny and laid-back with some good stories. We love what we do, but it’s a stressful job. He had a way of taking that stress away every time we talked. He was a genuine person.”
In stark contrast to previous generations, today’s NHLers are notoriously clean eaters. They are also calorie-incinerating engines. Garman was always ready with a cheat meal.
“I don’t know if I should tell this,” one veteran Bruin said. “When the boys were going out the night before, and might be a little hung over, it was, ‘Just shoot me a text and I’ll have something good for you.’ We’d come in for video and he’d have grilled cheeses for the boys. Nine different cheeses in there, and some tomato soup.”
Several players raved about his perfectly executed chocolate chip cookies. “Wooo,” Connor Clifton said. “You want to go back for seconds, but we’re recording this, so I never do.”
Bergeron, ever attentive to his regimen, referred to them as “recovery cookies, to make us feel better about eating them.” Chef and captain regularly met to check signals, update player preferences, and review menu items.
Jake DeBrusk acknowledged his diet has improved in recent seasons, but he likes his treats. Bruins fans standing behind the glass toss packages of Oreos to him during warm-ups. Not only will he accept, “sometimes I have one before the game,” DeBrusk said. “I offer them to the boys. You’d be surprised — lots of guys dabble in there. It’s a little sugar rush, a little kick.”
Naturally, Garman hooked him up.
“He used to hide the Coca-Colas, so that only I knew where they were, because they were getting rinsed from the team,” DeBrusk said. “So he’d always have a secret stash in case I needed one. Then Pasta [David Pastrnak] found out about the stash, and it got around. It was a good attempt. It got cleaned up.”
Come breakfast time, Garman had DeBrusk’s order ready: “I’d walk in, say hi, same thing. Omelette, ham and cheese. When I wasn’t hot, he’d switch it up and throw different things in there.” Likewise, a flash of a thumbs-up from Matt Grzelcyk had Garman making his favorite omelette: ham, onions, tomato, and spinach, with avocado on the side. Clifton would object to their pickiness, but Garman didn’t mind.
“He’s cooking for 50 people, the whole organization, every day,” Clifton said. “A couple guys don’t want the beautiful buffet he’s just worked all day on. Grizz will get a customized omelette. Sway doesn’t like baked broccoli, so Chef steams some. I’m always on them. ‘Really guys?’ But he never took my side. ‘No, no. That’s why I’m here. I’ll make whatever you want.’ ”
Garman’s skill altered palates and broke hard-wired routines. Clifton needed his game-day chicken, until he tried Garman’s pan-fried salmon. Coyle wasn’t a soup guy, but “some of them tasted like dessert.”
“Top-notch,” Linus Ullmark said. “I do love soup. The variety and quality … phenomenal. Everything was tremendous. You’re so blessed to have food on the table after practice.”
Swayman would grab a bowl and stand behind the counter, often chatting about music (they shared a love for the Red Hot Chili Peppers) and fishing (the Alaskan goalie is an avid angler).
“I loved his butternut squash soup,” Swayman said. “And so he texted me a full-[on] recipe, like four pages long over text — Chef, are you kidding me? I tried [to make it]. It was not good.
“Yeah … I miss him.”
Garman was “the best,” Derek Forbort said. “There were such good vibes in that room. You’d come in after a tough loss, get breakfast, and say, ‘What up?’ to him. He always had good tunes going. He’ll be missed.”
“He had a smirk to him,” Grzelcyk said. “He got it. He had that sense of humor. He’d listen before he spoke. He always kept it so light.”
“I always enjoyed our mornings,” Ullmark said. “The small things. It’s very sad we won’t have any more fun moments. It reminds you that life is very precious.”
“It’s so tragic and surprising, how it happened,” DeBrusk said. “For him to leave that way was tough. It won’t be the same without him. Life’s life. It can get taken away from you for different reasons. You just try to remember the good times.
“His alfredo sauce was electric. I don’t know if alfredo will ever taste as good.”
NO BIG DEAL?
Kessel downplays ironman record
The most amusing part of this past week’s Phil Kessel Appreciation Tour: He didn’t seem to care about any of it.
“It’s a cool thing,” he said before tying the NHL’s ironman record. “Means I played a lot of games, right? It’s neat, you know?”
Sure, Phil. Playing in 990 consecutive games, as he did, is neat. It had the hockey media noting Kessel’s prickly personality, diet, and training habits that have long had teammates shaking their heads — a younger Kessel “didn’t like the taste of water,” ex-Bruins teammate Blake Wheeler said recently, and only drank blue Powerade — and oh yes, explosive skating speed and shot power … all part of the Legend of Phil.
Kessel, the fifth overall pick by the Bruins in 2006, had a short stint here, culminating with a 36-goal season in 2008-09 and a trade to Toronto that helped bring the Stanley Cup and “Thank you, Kessel” chants to Boston.
He also was the last pick in the 2011 All-Star Game draft, a three-year idea that some of today’s media-savvy stars might enjoy resurrecting.
Kessel has a strong case to be called the greatest player from that draft class. He entered the weekend with 400 goals in 1,212 games, more than any of that group. His 959 points rank second to Nicklas Backstrom (1,011). Only Jonathan Toews has more Cup titles (three) than Kessel’s two. Those three, and perhaps Brad Marchand, will merit Hall of Fame consideration. Is there a slam-dunk HOFer there? Maybe not.
Kessel this past week scored his first goal for Bruce Cassidy’s Golden Knights and became the 12th American to hit 400 goals. That list is headlined by the Golden Generation, Mike Modano (561), Keith Tkachuk (538), and Jeremy Roenick (513). The torch has been carried by Patrick Kane (431), Joe Pavelski (425), Zach Parise (409), and Kessel these last 15 years.
Seems like a matter of time before Auston Matthews — already the 33rd-highest scoring American, with 261 goals — and the rest of the US-born stars from the draft classes of 2016 (Alex DeBrincat, Matthew Tkachuk), 2015 (Jack Eichel, Kyle Connor), 2013 (Jake Guentzel), and 2011 (Johnny Gaudreau) start shooting holes in that list.
Kessel, 35, might still be trucking along when they do. He hasn’t missed a game since Nov. 3, 2009.
“I like to play,” he said. “I like going out there and competing. It’s still fun to me.”
These Bruins off to fast starts
Three obvious candidates for Bruins MVP so far:
▪ David Pastrnak: Tied for the league lead in scoring entering the weekend (6-9–15, a 154-point pace over 82 games), as agent J.P. Barry negotiates a contract extension.
▪ Linus Ullmark: 5-0-0, 2.01, .936 as Jeremy Swayman finds his game.
▪ Hampus Lindholm: Nearly a point per game (2-5–7 in eight games) and giving the Bruins 24 minutes of shutdown defense a night as Charlie McAvoy recovers.
Boston just the latest stop for Stralman
Anton Stralman isn’t a wrestling fan. He doesn’t recall matches being shown on Swedish TV when he was growing up, or seeing action figures in the stores.
But the well-traveled Bruins defenseman’s slight resemblance to WWE legend “Stone Cold” Steve Austin — bald head, blond goatee — has caused a few “hell yeahs” to be thrown around a few NHL rooms over the years.
He got tagged with the “Stone Cold” nickname as a Panther in 2019, when he arrived as a free agent and debuted a glossy pate. Someone posted an image of Austin 3:16 next to Stralman, No. 6, and he’s been hearing it ever since.
Stralman, now wearing 86 for the Bruins, is with his ninth organization, including a 2009 season that sent him from Toronto to Calgary to Columbus, and two PTOs (New Jersey, 2011, and Boston). The 36-year-old may not get to 1,000 games — he had played in 932 entering the weekend — but given how the Bruins look so far, he has a chance to win the Stanley Cup for the first time.
NHL ideas maven Steve Mayer told Sportsnet that the upcoming Winter Classic at Fenway Park will have a different spin than the 2011 game. The ice sheet will be located near the Green Monster, rather than between first and third base. Meyer also alluded to the on-field accouterments, including a baseball diamond made of ice, rather than dirt. Players might be able to play around on it. “They could skate the bases,” Mayer mused … The 2024 World Cup of Hockey, Meyer said, will be contested on the east coast of North America (six or seven cities in the running), and in Europe. It’s expected the final round will be held in North America … The Coyotes debuted at still-under-construction Mullett Arena on Friday with visiting locker rooms fit for a youth team jamboree. Until the project is completed next month, players will dress and prepare for games in a curtain-and-rod set-up on the floor of the community rink next door. Seeing NHL games at Arizona State’s arena, which seats fewer than 5,000, will be like catching a stadium-size act in a small club. Like U2 at the Paradise, or Billy Joel at Great Scott … Vintage performances by Erik Karlsson this October. His 4-5–9 line entering Friday tied Rasmus Dahlin for the scoring lead among defensemen. Karlsson had two OT winners. He isn’t the guy who torched the Bruins in the spring of 2017, but he’s helping the Sharks stomach the loss of Brent Burns to Carolina … Six of the 15 highest-scoring defensemen were Swedes, a list that included Lindholm (T-4 entering Friday) … The Jack Studnicka trade delivered 19-year-old Swedish defensive prospect Jonathan Myrenberg from Vancouver. The Bruins seem encouraged by the 2021 fifth-rounder’s size (6 feet 3 inches) and handedness (right), but he’s several years away. He profiles as a two-way, third-pair guy … John Beecher opened 0-0–0 in Providence, whose leading scorers were Fabian Lysell (1-5–6 in three games) and Georgii Merkulov, Vinni Lettieri, and Joona Koppanen (5 points each). Merkulov, a gifted attacker, had four goals in five games … Major blow for the promising Senators, who started by winning four of six games: Josh Norris will miss several months with a shoulder injury. Coach D.J. Smith wasn’t confident Norris would play again this season … Ottawa’s Shane Pinto vaulted himself into the early Calder Trophy discussion with five goals in his first five games … Columbus is taking a look at sixth overall pick (2022) David Jiricek, after fellow blue liner Adam Boqvist broke his foot and stands to miss six weeks … The name Travis Roy will never be forgotten in Boston, even though the foundation that bears his name is winding down operations after 26 years. Roy’s parents, Lee and Brenda, pledged $2 million on behalf of the foundation to help create The Travis Roy Center for Enhanced Independence at Spaulding Rehabilitation, to serve those with spinal cord injuries, their families, and caregivers … Gotta love Denis Potvin’s new tongue-in-cheek venture: selling “Potvin Socks,” with a portion of proceeds going to an Islanders charity. What, you thought Rangers fans had been chanting something else these last 43 years?
Matt Porter can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports.