Subban and his teammates, all taking part in Canucks Development Camp at Shawnigan Lake School, took to the tennis courts after dinner for more team building. There were no racquets or tennis balls to be found, however, just 70 pie tins and blacked out swim goggles.
Anyone familiar with Canucks assistant coach Perry Pearn and his team building exercises know exactly where this is going: blindfolded land mine challenge.
The pie tins, scattered throughout a taped area leading from the baseline, up the doubles alley to midcourt, cutting through centre court and going back down the opposite doubles alley to the baseline, acted as land mines. There were also orange buckets acting as even bigger bombs.
Players were split into two teams, each starting at an opposite baseline and crossing at centre court; seven ‘blind’ Canucks were guided through the pie tins by their teammates, who could not enter the court of play.
Chaos ensued – especially for Russian Dmitry Zhukenov.
The 18-year-old, who Vancouver selected in 114th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft and you learned all about reading Tyson Giuriato’s feature yesterday, speaks a handful of English at most, so getting English instructions to maneuver around a land mine course, while blindfolded, presented a unique challenge.
Rewind to last Friday night when camp opened and players had to fill out questionnaires about themselves, then introduce a teammate, reading five facts about them. Zhukenov was paired with Subban and there wasn’t much communication going on because of the language barrier. Thankfully Zhukenov’s translator was there to smoothen it out.
There was no translator for Zhukenov Monday evening as his sight was taken away, before teammates began shouting instructions at him in a language he doesn’t comprehend.
Subban to the rescue.
Subban saw Zhukenov struggling and went to his teammates aid, instructing him to only follow orders from his voice. He then taught him the words and meanings of left, right, step left, step right, straight, shuffle, jump and stop (and coach Willie Desjardins allowed him to enter the court instead of remain on the sidelines).
At first the pair got off to a rocky start, but so did almost everyone.
“I tried to keep things as simple as possible obviously, but I give him a lot of credit, he was actually responding pretty well to left, right, straight, shuffle and jump,” said Subban, “he learned very quickly.”
Slow and steady was the theme for the pair as they made their way up, through centre court and back down the other side; the highlight came at the end, with just five pie plates to pass, when Subban told Zhukenov to jump.
“Jump?” questioned Zhukenov, pointing his right hand a few feet in front of him.
“No, no,” replied Subban, moving Zhukenov’s hand up higher, “JUMP!”
“Ya, jump, ya!” said Zhukenov, who coiled back and shot over the pie tins with ease. Subban took Zhukenov’s blindfold off and the two hugged it out, jumping for joy at their accomplishment.
“It was a challenge, but it was a lot of fun actually. Once we got to the end, you could see the joy on our faces, we were really excited. I’m happy we could both work through it together.”
The pair have become so close this week that Subban now has a Russian translation app on his phone and they are teaching each other words.
“I’m teaching him, mainly things about the dressing room and important words to know, and he’s teaching me a little bit, it’s a give and take thing. I know ‘здравствуйте’ and that’s all, it means hello.”
“It better!” laughed Subban.