Vasek Pospisil played a bit of street hockey when he was younger, but never had the experience of competing against NHL pros. On Saturday in Montreal, he had his opportunity at the annual Coupe Rogers Ball Hockey Challenge.
“It’ll be interesting. I hope I don’t embarrass myself!” said Pospisil ahead of the friendly game at Stade Uniprix.
Facing off against an NHL team that included Jonathan Drouin, Charles Hudon and Michael McCarron of the Montreal Canadiens, he more than held his own. The British Columbia native, who fondly recalls watching the Mario Lemieux-Jaromir Jagr-Ron Francis line as a kid (“that line was pretty crazy”), had his fair share of scoring chances and earned the praise of his hockey counterparts.
“He was good,” said Alex Burrows of the Ottawa Senators. “He was really intense. He’s the same way on the court. He never gives up. Everything is Pospisil, they say. Everything is possible. It’s the same thing here. He worked hard. He had a blast. He was probably the best tennis player playing hockey.”
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Dutchman Robin Haase and Canadian former pro Frederic Niemeyer took part in the action alongside Pospisil. Though this version of hockey proved to be new to Haase, he quickly settled in and enjoyed the experience.
“It was fun,” said Haase. “It took me about 20 seconds before I realised it’s not real field hockey, because in real field hockey, which we know in my country, you’re only allowed to play with one side of the stick. Here it’s both sides. That confused me a little bit, but after that it was fine.”
The NHL players, also represented by Antoine Roussel (Dallas Stars), Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida Panthers) and Alexander Killorn (Tampa Bay Lightning), held on to win the game 5-4.
“I think it was a great experience to play against a tennis player,” said Huberdeau. “They were good. They were sweating a lot at the end, so they worked hard. It was great fun.”