Vasek Pospisil has a ways to go before he retires from tennis but should he ever want to make a career move, he could always try his luck at hockey.
Or at least that’s what the NHL stars who played in the Rogers Cup Ball Hockey Challenge presented by Knapper jokingly suggested on Saturday after taking on a team of ATP players including Pospisil, Frédéric Niemeyer and Robin Haase of the Netherlands.
“It was pretty funny,” said Montréal Canadiens forward Charles Hudon. “Alex Burrows and I were wondering if Vasek would be able to play this week because he was going at it hard. He really wanted to get to the ball and would take the time to retreat behind the net. So he had us wondering.”
Pospisil will indeed play at least one match this week against countryman Peter Polansky in the first round. Let’s hope he has some energy left after his performance on Saturday.
“I thought Vasek was amazing,” said Dallas Stars forward Antoine Roussel. “He was very good. He worked hard and was sweating so much. I was impressed that he gave it so much.”
“It’s true, I was very intense,” admitted Pospisil with a smile. “Our team played 100% but I think that they [the NHL players] played 4%. And we still lost. It was very physical but we had fun. It’s not every day that you get to try other sports with professionals, so it was a great experience.”
In addition to Hudon, Burrows and Roussel, Pospisil and his crew took on Alex Killorn of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers, along with current and former Montréal Canadiens Donald Audette, Michael McCarron and Jonathan Drouin, the team’s newest member.
Pospisil, who was born in Vernon, BC, has been a hockey fan since as far back as he can remember. He followed the Montréal Canadiens during his time at the National Training Centre and has a soft spot for the Vancouver Canucks. But despite the kind words from the NHLers about his hockey skills, the 27-year-old tennis star isn’t an avid hockey player: “When I was 10 or 11, I played a lot in the street with my brother. But since then, I don’t think I’ve played at all. Today, I just tried to run around and put a lot of pressure. I don’t think my game was as good as they said it was!”
The crowds were on hand to see Drouin make his debut in the red, white and blue. It didn’t take any arm twisting to get him to accept Tennis Canada’s invitation.
“I’m a big tennis fan and I was really happy when I found out that [Roger] Federer would be here this week,” said Drouin. “When I was younger, my father and I always watched his matches together so I’m excited to see him live. I’ll probably try and meet him. He’s one of my sports idols.”
The fans in attendance can boast about seeing Drouin’s very first goal in the Montréal Canadiens’ uniform—a shot that ultimately led the NHL team to a 5-4 win over the ATP players.
“I’m not sure it was really my first goal but that was a little preview,” said Drouin with a laugh. “It was a great experience and it was really fun to play against tennis players. And I think they had just as much fun as we did.”