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Magic school bus

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
“The future of our team is in this room.”

The heat is on the Vancouver Canucks, and not just because the temperature is as hot as it’s been in 40 years at Shawnigan Lake, British Columbia.

The Canucks Prospects Development Camp kicked off Friday night at Shawnigan Lake School as 18 drafted or signed young guns settled into the largest boarding school in Canada. Twenty-nine prospects will take part overall, but free agents aside, night one was about welcoming Canucks prospects to camp.

The players met Canucks staff, including management, team personnel, training staff and the Canucks.com swarm, as they entered Hogwarts, the only appropriate nickname for Shawnigan Lake School, an immaculate 100-year-old 300 acre campus, home to 450 high school students for 10 months of the year and our home this week.

After eating dinner, consisting of a superb Indian spread, the prospects were all ears as Stan Smyl, director of player development, laid out expectations for the week. There will be on-ice workouts, off-ice workouts and team building exercises, and “this week, we don’t want you to see what happens, we want you to make it happen.”

The players, each paired up and seated with staff at tables for six, filled out Getting to know you cards, complete with Who is your hero? and What would you want your teammates to say about you? They then read them aloud for their partner, helping everyone get to know each other.

It wasn’t until 7:13 p.m. (PST), however, that the ice was truly broken and strangers became friends.

Perry Pearn, Canucks assistant coach and team bonding expert, was up his old tricks as he formed three lines of nine people and handed the first person in each line a tennis ball. “Get the ball to the end of your line and back passing it only with your neck,” he said.

Just like Canucks main training camp last year when they did this exercise, there’s no video of it because, well, it looks like everyone is necking. Silliness aside (although it is incredibly funny to watch live), the middle line composed of forwards got the ball there and back while the other teams were only three or four passes deep.

“Well done,” said Pearn, “now head out the door and look for a bus…”

At the bottom of a slight hill, a yellow 40-foot 2007 Thomas Saf-T-Liner school bus awaited the prospects; the Ms. Frizzle approved, diesel chugging, 9,000-kilogram metal tallyho had two thick white ropes tethered to the front for what was clearly going to be a feats of strength challenge.

Jake Virtanen was told to pick three teammates to help him try to pull the bus. He took Brock Boeser, Anton Cederholm and Mackenze Stewart and it took all their strength to move the bus nowhere. (Let the record show Virtanen was in dress shoes, while Stewart was rocking TOMS).

Eight more players joined them and they tugged the bus up, up and away, until Pearn instructed the remaining six prospects to push the front of the bus in the opposite direction.

The crew of 12 was still able to budge the bus, but it was a challenge.

The message here was teamwork and that “it’s easier to succeed if everyone is pulling in the right direction,” said Pearn.

Cohesion became the word of the day and it’ll be preached and practiced day in and day out as development camp continues Saturday.

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