Boston, MA –
Every offseason, Bruins team members work aggressively to hone their skills and maintain the peak physical condition of a professional hockey player. While some athletes may chose the traditional options of weightlifting and cardio regimens, goaltender Tuukka Rask
prefers to take his training off the ice and onto the tennis court.
|Tuukka says, "It's in." |
“I like to play tennis to just get my mind out of hockey and it’s a good workout too,” Rask said. “It’s really the opposite of lifting weights so it’s a good balance for that.”
Rask said that while he can’t neglect his hockey-specific training, he strives to play tennis two or three times a week in the offseason in order to maintain his sharp hand-eye coordination and agility.
While hockey remains his first love, Rask said he first got involved with tennis through playing pick-up matches with his friends in Finland over 13 years ago.
“Just watching games on TV, we figured [tennis] looked really nice,” he said. “We had a court right close by [our home] and me and my buddies went there and started playing.
“Ever since, I’ve been in love with the sport.”
This offseason, Rask has been working on his game with tennis professional Steve MacGregor at the Mount Auburn Club in Watertown, Mass. The Mount Auburn Club, which has been in business for 36 years, boasts 11 courts, including four outdoor courts that are covered in the winter for year-round play.
The club recently expanded from a strictly tennis-based facility to a broader wellness center, offering a greater depth of fitness care such as water aerobics and personal training and also boasts a full sized Pilates studio.
Dory Berman, Director of Programs and Services for the Mt. Auburn Club, explained how thrilling it has been for both the staff and club members to have Rask training in their facilities.
“It’s definitely been all the buzz the last few weeks since we heard about the possibility of him coming,” Berman said.
“It is always exciting to have a celebrity visit, but even more exciting to have a sports celebrity, especially here in Boston. It’s been our honor to host him.”
MacGregor, Rask’s tennis coach and proverbial sparring partner, has been teaching tennis at exclusive country clubs around New England for six years and said was pleasantly surprised with the level of talent his student brought to the court.
“When I heard I was going to play with Tuukka, I was like ‘I wonder if he can hit the ball,’ but then when we got out here, he was surprisingly good and we had a nice workout,” MacGregor joked, minutes before Rask showcased his reflexes, snagging a high-flying tennis ball out of the air with his bare hand.
Thanks to Rask’s unique playing style, McGregor had a difficult time putting his finger on exactly which professional tennis superstar the young hockey player most resembles.
“He has a one-handed backhand like [Roger] Federer, [but it’s] not like Federer’s,” MacGregor explained. “He is very quick, surprisingly, being a tall guy, so he relates to [Raphael] Nadal … [and] moving around the court well.”
Despite his aspiring tennis career, Rask is extremely excited about the Bruins upcoming season and is especially looking forward to the team’s trip overseas.
“It’s going to be great for the team, getting together with the guys and really spending some time with them because when you’re having training camp in your hometown you’re not spending that much time as a team,” said the Finnish netminder.
“I think that’s going to be huge for us as a hockey team to go out there together, to see different countries and spend some time together.” --- Brian Smith and Ashley Robbins