“Just head up the trail, go through the parking lot and to the tennis courts,” instructed Canucks strength and conditioning coach Roger Takahashi. “You’ll see what’s in store when you get there.”
When the players arrived there were blue and green foam balls waiting in the middle of the courts, seven on each side, and too many pairs of swimming goggles to count. The goggles had tape over the eyes and “You’ve got to be kidding me, we’re playing blind dodgeball.” laughed Shawn Matthias.
Canucks assistant coach Perry Pearn was the brainchild behind Vancouver’s first ever blind dodgeball game; Pearn has used the activity before and after having seen the players compete, it’s easy to understand why.
The rules were simple: one player wears blacked-out goggles and is guided by his partner. If you get hit, you’re out, the ball cannot bounce off the ground to count as a hit.
“It was pretty wild,” laughed Kevin Bieksa, discussing the game with Dan Hamhuis afterwards. “Our communication definitely got better the more we played.”
That, as Pearn explained following the 2-1 win for the blue team, was the goal.
“Most of the time when you’re trying to communicate on the ice, it’s chaos,” said Pearn. “Your communication needs to become second nature with each other and I hope this game really stressed that. Communication is key.”
There were varying strategies on how to play, all being equally hilarious. Bieksa and partner Eddie Lack got right up close to the net, crouched down and stayed there. They were closest to a lot of rolling dodgeballs and picked off guys with ease.
For Daniel Sedin and Alex Edler it was more a matter of survival. They too crouched, but they did so in the back of the court with their hands over their heads. If anyone knows the Swedish word for bravery, let me know.
Not only was the game incredible to watch, Pearn was happy with the end result and what the players hopefully took from it.
“When it’s one of those games mid-season and you feel like communication just isn’t there with the team, think back to this and remember that even the smallest communication out there can go a big way,” said Pearn.