As the Boston Badgers have struggled through their inaugural season, coach Cam Prince has looked for ways to encourage bonding among his players. And with a number of new faces on the team after the recent trading deadline, Prince felt it was especially important to give his players a chance to get to know each other better.
With that in mind, on the Badgers’ trip to New York this week, Prince decided to take his players to an escape room. In this increasingly popular form of entertainment, a group of players is locked in a room and must solve a series of riddles and puzzles in order to get out. The Badgers’ trip to the room proved highly entertaining, but there were several surprises along the way that got in the way of the bonding aspect.
Since there are limits on the number of players that can share a single escape room, Prince divided his squad into four groups. One group consisted of the top two forward lines; C Jens Bunyakin captained that group. Another group included the third line and reserve forwards; F Randy O’Connor was in charge of that group. The third group included the top two defensive pairings and starting goalie Dennis Wampler, with D Timothy “Cyclone” Winston as captain. The final group included the bottom defensive pairing, reserve blueliner Horst Hasenkamp, and backup goalie Carson Wagner as captain.
The squabbles began as soon as the teams were announced. Ds Jurgen Braun and Moose Baker argued over which of them was a second-pairing defender and thus belonged with Winston’s group; Prince ruled in favor of Braun. Bunyakin asked to trade RW Gene Kennedy to Winston’s group for Wampler, a known puzzle enthusiast; Prince said that there would be no trades. Wagner suggested scrapping the groups altogether and letting the captains pick teams; that request was also denied.
“If our guys don’t make it in hockey, they should all become lawyers,” said assistant coach Mark Morganhurst. “They’re all great at arguing.”
Once the groups were locked away in their respective rooms, further hijinks ensued. In Bunyakin’s group, RW Jorma Seppa and Kennedy were chained together, and had to find a key to free themselves. Unfortunately, this confinement brought out a previously unknown claustrophobia in Kennedy, who suffered a panic attack and had to be calmed by Bunyakin until the key could be found.
“Fortunately, I have a 3-year-old at home,” said Bunyakin, “which equipped me perfectly to deal with Gene.”
In Winston’s room, there was a jigsaw puzzle that the team had to assemble in order to find a clue. Wampler and D Brody “Bruiser” McCallan both wanted to be in charge of assembling the puzzle. The disagreement became so heated that the two nearly came to blows and had to be separated by their groupmates.
“Wamp’s giving up at least 70 pounds to Bruiser in that fight,” said Winston, “so I knew we had to stop it. I didn’t want to explain to Coach that we had to put our starting goalie on the DL because Bruiser broke him in the escape room.”
O’Connor’s group managed to figure out all of the clues well within the 60-minute time limit. But when they tried to leave their room, they found that they couldn’t. Escape room staff spent an additional half-hour just trying to free the trapped group. As it turned out, the prank-loving Kennedy had jammed the lock to their room. When O’Connor finally emerged, he had to be restrained from choking Kennedy.
“I hoped that this evening would bring us closer together,” said Prince. “I’m not sure if we succeeded in that, or if we brought guys closer to killing each other.”
Wagner’s group wound up getting out first, despite being the smallest group of the four. “Maybe we’ve just got a head for these things,” said Wagner. “Or maybe it’s because we just focused on getting out instead of trying to fight each other.”
Prince said that he would continue to seek out bonding opportunities for his team. He doesn’t plan to try another escape room, though. “I’m pretty sure that once this story gets out,” said the Boston coach, “we’ll be banned from every escape room on the continent.”