Hockey rivals, best friends self-isolate together shooting pucks in dad's garage

When the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled their season, it didn't take long for best friends Matthew Kinash and William Zapernick to come up with a plan. 

Both players going to different NCAA schools in the fall on hockey scholarships

William Zapernick, left, and his childhood friend Matthew Kinash are living and working out together as they prepare for college hockey in the fall. (Min Dhariwal/CBC)

Matthew Kinash and William Zapernick played for different teams in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, but off the ice they've always been inseparable.

So when the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled their season, it didn't take long for the two friends to come up with a plan. 

Zapernick simply moved into Kinash's parents' house in southwest Edmonton so the pair could work out together and keep each other company.

'It's been fun' 

The two met when they were in Grade 5 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic school in Edmonton. 

"He's probably going to get sick of me here pretty soon, but it's been fun," Kinash said. "He's a pretty good roommate."

"It's not too much of an adjustment," said Zapernick. "Because this is pretty much my second home."

He said he's been coming over to the Kinash house for as long as he can remember. 

More than a month into their routine, the pair practise shooting pucks in the garage. The basement doubles as a gym, with an Olympic bar loaded with several 45-pound plates, plus free weights, a bench and an exercise bike.

"We try to do mobility on Wednesday," Kinash said. "We work out hard Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. We have active recovery Saturday, and Sundays are a rest day."

Down time, he said, consists of reading books and some heated head-to-head video game battles. 

'Stay safe' 

Because they don't have a proper squat rack, they built one themselves, using two five-gallon Home Depot pails filled with concrete and several two by fours to help secure the bar once they've finished using it. 

Zapernick's league-leading Sherwood Park Crusaders were set to face Kinash's team, the Drayton Valley Thunder, in a first-round playoff series before all games were suspended on March 13.

"It's the craziest thing, the next day we were ready to pack 2,000 people into the Sherwood Park arena," Zapernick said of the playoff series. "With the snap of a finger it was completely gone, and that's a feeling I'll never forget." 

"That was kind of heartbreaking," said Kinash. "It was going to be a pretty cool ending to our junior careers."

But there was a silver lining, and the two are now pushing each other for what potentially awaits them in the fall. A chance to continue their careers playing NCAA college hockey in the United States. 

Zapernick is going to the University of Alabama Huntsville to play Division 1 hockey, while Kinash has committed to Brown University on Rhode Island.

It's motivation they'll continue to use, until it's safe to return to the ice.

Matthew Kinash and William Zapernick work on their puck skills in the garage. (Min Dhariwal/CBC)