Pearn, a native of Stettler, Alberta, whom the Canucks hired as assistant coach in August, brought more than 19-years of NHL coaching experience to Vancouver. The 63-year-old stresses the importance of communication like few others and this year he’s done so in very innovative ways.
Remember Canucks blind dodgeball? That was all Pearn and that was only the beginning, as the team found out recently.
Following two days off for Thanksgiving, the Canucks practiced at Rogers Arena before taking part in a series of team-building activities in the afternoon.
To loosen the guys up before the real fun and games began, two teams were formed – Blue and White – and the groups each formed a line in the dressing room. A tennis ball was handed to the first person in both lines and the objective was simple: get the ball to the end of the line and back by passing it from one guy to the next WITHOUT USING YOUR HANDS.
Safe to say photos and video from this will never surface.
“That definitely got us all in the right headspace for the activities,” laughed Shawn Matthias. “That’s a lot trickier than you think and we were all laughing so much it became that much more difficult.”
Team Blue took the first challenge but the real winners were anyone privy to this event, including coach Willie Desjardins, who may still have tears in his eyes from laughing so violently.
When the Canucks walked across the hall into the gym five minutes later, they saw 60 pie tins scattered throughout a taped area in the shape of an hourglass with a halfway line through the middle.
“When I saw the basket of blacked out swim goggles that we used to play dodgeball, I knew things were going to get interesting,” said Radim Vrbata.
He was bang on.
Both teams had to get from one end of the course to the other and back, blindfolded, without stepping on a landmine, aka pie tin. Only six team members could go through at once, fastest team wins.
At first it was chaos with the Blue team forming a line while being guided by a crew of shouting voices, while the White team piggybacked each other and also took direction from too many teammates.
“Then,” said Pearn afterwards, “you guys realized it was better to go with a one-on-one approach. That realization was the point of this because during a game there’s a lot going on and the ability to break through all the noise and hear the coaches and teammates is paramount.”
Blue team took the win.
From blind to barefoot, the team building continued with a bucket challenge. Teams Blue and White took position by lying in two groups, each player putting his feet in the air to help hold up an orange bucket filled with water. One by one the players had to take their feet off, remove their shoes and socks and resume holding their part of the bucket. Once every team member had done so, one by one they removed their feet leaving just one player holding up the bucket.
Kevin Bieksa was that player, he took charge for team Blue, was vocal the entire challenge and led his team to a victory.
“That one was again about a chaotic situation and having someone take charge for the group,” said Pearn. “I was really impressed with Bieksa and how his group performed; Kassian captained them well, but Kevin was the leader.”
Last but not least, the teams met outside the gym where four two-by-four skis awaited; the wooden planks, complete with six white ropes strung as handles, were to be ridden by six teammates at a time – left, right, left, right all the way to the end of the hallway and back.
This time there was no rhythm to be had for the Blue team and it couldn’t avoid discombobulating. The White team, meanwhile, flew through the exercise with ease capturing three points to win the overall challenge.
This wasn’t Pearn’s first experience with the skis and it likely won’t be the last for the Canucks.
“In a past life in Ottawa I used to pull the skis out when the power play wasn’t rolling and I’d tell the five guys to get on and see if they could move the skis,” said Pearn. “It’s the same thing on the ice, if we’re not all working together on the power play, we’re not going anywhere.”
So far this season the Canucks have seven power play goals, so the skis will remain in storage – for now.
The team bonding activities, however, will remain a constant this season.
“We did a lot of this stuff in Ottawa and think it’s a big part of why we were so tight there,” Pearn continued. “We had some talent, but we found success by becoming a close group and we still are in a lot of ways.”