Then it hit Zack Kassian – right in the leg.
When the Vancouver Canucks forward visited the Kivan Club of Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast BC mid-April, he wasn’t sure what to expect. Kassian was the new guy, nervous and shy, so first things first, a tour of the facility.
Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast BC strides to provide a safe, supportive place where children and youth can experience new opportunities, overcome barriers, build positive relationships, and develop confidence and skills for life, according to their website. The Kivan Club offers a homework room with computers, a huge games/crafts/study/hangout room with a pool table, another smaller craft/dining room, a kitchen and la piece de resistance, the gymnasium.
When Kassian walked into the gym there were 10 dodgeballs spread out on the centre court line; green, red, purple, blue, yellow and orange foam weapons of destruction begging to be chucked.
The 40-some kids, aged 6-to-12, split into two teams and as they gathered on their individual baselines, Kassian joined the team to his right. There to greet him was Nathan.
The eight-year-old, huffing and puffing with a mixture of exhaustion and excitement, explained there’s no hitting in the face or below the belt and if you’ve been hit legally, you take a spot on the bench until your team hits the opposing basketball backboard with a ball.
That’s when it hit Kassian. Green ball, left leg.
“Gotcha!” exclaimed the excited youngster who hit Kassian.
There as no shame for the 23-year-old, the walk over to the bench was a welcomed break from the action.
“This is intense,” he smiled.
“Harder than a Torts practice?” I asked.
“No. But ask me again in five minutes.”
Five minutes later, almost to the second, Kassian was back on the bench after being hit again – yellow ball, right shoulder – and this time he was the one with the questions.
“Does this game ever end?” he panted.
“How did these kids get so fast, what’s going on?” he laughed.
“Seriously though, I’m sweating a lot. Check my back, am I okay?” he asked cautiously.
After a quick wipe down, Kassian was back in the game, but not for long. Hit once again – red ball, back – he took a seat and this time ignored the hits on the backboard and got to know some of the kids.
A volunteer with Boys and Girls Club watched Kassian and the reaction from the kids. A warm smile came over his face seeing the kids light up in laughter as Kassian held court after he was unable to actually hold court.
“I thought I had better skills than that,” Kassian told the kids.
“You need to throw harder,” laughed nine-year-old Hailey. “And maybe a little bit straighter…”
“You should probably wear shorts next time,” giggled someone from the side.
“I didn’t know this was the plan,” Kassian replied quickly. “I was not prepared to have this much fun with you guys – next time, I’ll wear shorts.”
Everyone gathered for a group photo with Kassian before he said his goodbyes.
Goodbye actually isn't the right word because Kassian will be back, again and again if they’ll have him.
“That was great. The kids were really welcoming and that was a lot of fun. I’ll have to find some time to work on my dodgeball skills this off-season!”