By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Not only does Jordan Rendel know hockey, he has pretty mad four-corner, indoor soccer skills, as well.
Rendle, Timmins Rock teammates Joe Olson, Mike Norris and Andrew Castagna were at O’Gorman Intermediate Catholic School Monday to work with students as part of a weekly lunch-hour sports program.
“I played it when I was this age, but nothing more than that,” said Rendle, a Surrey, B.C., native who centres the Rock’s No. 2 line.
“It is fun to work up a sweat with these kids because they are giving it pretty hard. It was just a good time.”
The O’Gorman students were not intimidated to have Junior ‘A’ hockey stars in their midst.
“They just treat us like ordinary guys and that is what we encourage them to do,” Rendle said.
“We don’t want to come in here and intimidate them at all or try and take over their gym. It’s their lunch time and we want to make sure they are having a great time.”
Olson, a Vancouver native who patrols the Rock blue-line, was doing a fine impression of goalie Logan Ferrington on Monday — although there is a big difference between stopping volleyballs coming at you around 50 km/h and rubber pucks screaming at you at more than 100 km/h.
“Probably not, I am a little scared of the puck, but if I need to I will stand in there for the team,” Olson said when asked if he has any desire to strap on the pads and take Ferrington’s spot in the crease.
“It is really great to come down here and get involved with the kids.
“Obviously, with us being a new team in this community, it’s good to give back to the community after all the hard work it did to get this team here.
“These kids obviously like sports, so it is good to get a chance to come down and get involved with them at school.”
Castagna, like Olson, a member of the Rock’s defensive corps, also seemed to be having a good time interacting with the kids Monday.
“As you can see, four-corner soccer is a big hit with the kids,” he said.
“It got everyone involved and even got me sweating a little bit.
“We have also had a lot of fun playing Chinese baseball and basketball with the kids.”
One of the key objects for the Rock volunteers is ensuring the kids don’t become bored with the activities.
“We like to make sure we keep them active and make sure they are getting some physical activity,” said Castagna, a North Vancouver native.
“Obviously, we don’t want them to come in here and stand around waiting for the next game. We like to make sure we get everyone involved and put some thought into it.”
Norris, a Lake Vila, Ill., native, has been impressed with the students taking part in the program.
“I really like coming down here and seeing how athletic these students are,” he said.
“They are a great bunch of young kids and it is good for them to have somebody to look up to. Hopefully, by us coming down here and being part of the community, it will help to bring people into our games.”
Like his teammates, Norris realizes how important it is for the players to get out into the community and make a positive impression.
“I think it is very important,” he said.
“We should be part of as many community events as possible, especially as a team. This is a new community for us and I think we should give back as much as we can.”
What do the O’Gorman students think about the chance to spend their lunch hour getting physical with the Rock?
“It’s great,” he said Colin Duizer, a Grade 8 student at O’Gorman Intermediate Catholic School, who was taking part in his second session with the hockey players.
“They are pretty big, but they are just as good as anybody else here. It is fun to play against them.”
“Plus you get to play against people who aren’t in your class and in some fun games that you always do in gym class.”
Chris Seguin, a physical education teacher at O’Gorman Intermediate Catholic School, is pleased with the way the program has developed.
“I think it is a great way for our students to make a connection with the hockey guys,” he said.
“Some of the kids don’t get to play organized sports after school, so this is a great way for them to get physically active and meet new friends in a non-intimidating environment.
“I think it is also good for the hockey players, too, to meet other people in the community and give back, as well.”
Rock players have been visiting the school since mid-September on Mondays and Wednesdays.
“They come in during the lunch hour and we play a variety of games,” Seguin said.
“Often times, it’s ideas the players have come up with. We have done everything from dodgeball to basketball to new games. Sometimes, it is fitness. They will lead the kids through some fitness drills.
“Every week, we try to do something different to keep the kids interested.”
The number of students participating can vary from week to week and session to session.
“Today, we had more than 40 kids out and the kids enjoy it,” Seguin said.
“They would come in every day if the opportunity was there. It’s an activity that is open to any of the kids. We encourage everyone to come and be physically active and get a little exercise.”
Clearly, O’Gorman Intermediate Catholic School is benefiting from its arrangement with the Timmins Rock.
“The kids and the staff here are really grateful that these guys take the time out of their busy days to come in and mentor and coach the kids,” Seguin said.
“Hopefully, in the end some of our Grade 7 and Grade 8 students will one day represent the Rock.”