For the kids

Ryan Cooke
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Published on June 24, 2014

Sill crowds the net as Dakota Nelson, foreground, rushes the ball the other way following a big save by the goaltender. Sill and his team of teachers eventually beat the kids, but everyone was smiling when the game ended. Ryan Cooke – Truro Daily News.

Published on June 24, 2014

Sill and Rob Adams, a teacher at SCA, high-five after hooking up for a goal.

Published on June 24, 2014

A large group of kids gathered to watch the game in the gym, while more watched through the windows in the cafeteria and the hall.

Published on June 24, 2014

Zach Sill

Published on June 24, 2014

SCA's Kelly Spencer donned his autographed Sill jersey and played alongside the NHLer. Spencer was keen to show off his own hockey skills, taking every advantage he could to score on a sixth grader.

Published on June 24, 2014

The game ended with high-fives all around for both teams.

Published on June 24, 2014

High-fives

Published on June 24, 2014

During the team photo, one sneaky sixth grader tried to change the score for the photo. Ethan Densmore, goaltender for the adult team, was quick to toss out one last save, however.

Published on June 24, 2014

Following the game, Sill went around to classrooms taking pictures and signing autographs.

Published on June 24, 2014

Published on June 24, 2014

"Show him your hockey teeth!" Spencer said to the child, before he flashed a toothless grin.

Sill returns to former schools for ball hockey showdown

BROOKFIELD – Not known to use his hands for goal scoring, Zach Sill soaked in every chance to bury a shot on his opponents at Brookfield Elementary School on Tuesday morning.

 

Sill nearly matched his American Hockey League scoring totals in 20 minutes of floor hockey, playing alongside a collection of teachers from South Colchester Academy and Brookfield Elementary School. The group of ruthless old vets didn’t let up for a second against their opponents – a group of 12-year-old boys.

“It’s really cool to get the chance to play against Zach,” said Dakota Nelson, who got the chance to rub shoulders with Sill in the corners. “I mean he played in the NHL.”

Sill, a Birch Hill native, returned home last week after his season with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins came to an end in the third round of the playoffs. Wanting to get involved with his old school, Sill got in contact with some teachers and set up an intramural ball hockey game.

“My teachers here, I’m still pretty close to them,” he said. “It’s great to come back to where you’re from – where you went to school and grew up. It’s special for me too, just as much as it is for the kids.”

After the game, Sill went outdoors and played with the kids during lunch hour. If not for his six-foot, 200-pound frame, the smile on his face would suggest he was just another kid on the playground.

It’s been a long ride for the 26-year-old Sill, who reached the NHL for the first time this season. After lying down for a pre-game nap one day in November, he woke up to a dream come true when his phone rang. His coach, John Hynes, was on the other end.

“Siller, you’ve been waiting for this call for four years now,” he said.

“It was surreal,” Sill recalled. “It took me about an hour to stop shaking.”

The reality of the situation still hadn’t sunk in when he walked into the Pittsburgh dressing room for the first time. Seeing his jersey alongside Stanley Cup champions and being around superstars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Sill took a step back to enjoy it.

I think it’s important to keep the kids into sports and let them see that it’s obtainable even for a kid around here. Zach Sill

“It’s a pretty special event,” he said. “The guys on the bench and in the room are all just happy for you.”

Now back home again, he wants kids to see success and happiness, he said.

“When we were younger, it was always the hockey players in town that you looked up to,” he said. “I think it’s important to keep the kids into sports and let them see that it’s obtainable even for a kid around here.”

After lunch, Sill went door-to-door through the whole school. Children’s faces lit up as he stopped in each classroom, taking pictures and signing autographs for every last kid.

Well, everybody except one.

After signing something for every other child at the table, Sill turned to one little boy with a sheet of paper on his desk. As he leaned in to sign the sheet, the boy waved him off.

“No thanks, I’m good,” the boy said as the room burst into laughter.

“Yeah, you’re not Crosby,” a teacher joked.

An unrestricted free agent at season’s end, Sill is up for grabs by any of the 30 teams in the league. With the window for signing free agents opening on July 1st, Sill expects things to be cleared up within the next two weeks. Hoping for another shot at the NHL, he’s keeping his options open. Still, there’s one place he wants to be.

“I’d love to be back with the Penguins,” he said.

As his day wound down, Sill headed outside to see the kids one last time. It was a long morning for Sill, having done the same thing at SCA earlier in the day. Still, the smile couldn’t be wiped off his face.

“Kids are hilarious, man. I love doing this stuff.”

 

 

 

Organizations: NHL, South Colchester Academy, Penguins American Hockey League Brookfield Elementary School

Geographic location: Pittsburgh

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