Potential future Vancouver Canucks headed up the Malahat to make public appearances and participate in team building in Nanaimo Tuesday.
The young hockey players, taking part in Canucks' prospects camp in Shawnigan Lake, were split into two groups with one heading to the Nanaimo Boys and Girls Club and the other to the Nanaimo Child Development Centre.
Thatcher Demko, a 2014 second-round pick, projected to play with the Canucks' farm club in Utica next season, assisted teammates, including Curtis Valk, build a net that was later used by children for street hockey at the development centre.
“We didn't expect that one coming,” said Demko with a chuckle. “They told us we were going to play some street hockey and they just needed a little bit of help setting up the net, so we did our best to figure it out ... some of the behind-the-scenes stuff is pretty funny.”
Demko said coming to see the children was enjoyable, too.
“It's a lot of fun. In previous years we went to the children's hospital and it's just awesome to see their faces light up when we come to see them and hang out with them ... hopefully we have the same effect on these guys too,” said Demko.
Will Lockwood, selected in the third round by the Canucks this past draft, said helping the children at the centre build mini silly boats was fun.
“This is awesome,” said Lockwood. “I think the kids are putting a smile on my face more than I'm putting it on their's. It's a really good experience.”
Michelle Kocourek, centre resource development department leader, said the event came about because her daughter was previously employed by the Canucks.
“They knew the prospects were going to be down at Shawnigan Lake,” said Kocourek. “Typically, they'd go visit a hospital ward. Thankfully, there aren't a lot of sick kids right now and they reached out to [my daughter] and said 'Hey, do you know any groups of children?' and she connected us.”
When asked what it meant to the kids, Kocourek said you only had to look around to see the answer.
“Some of them are smiling from ear to ear – the opportunity to rub shoulders and do something with some of the Canucks is definitely not anything they do day to day. It's a pretty special occasion,” said Kocourek.
— Karl Yu (@KarlYuBulletin) July 5, 2016