MONTREAL - While the city gets set to rock it tennis-style over the next few days with the Rogers Cup, several NHL - and Canadiens - players tested the hockey skills of their ATP counterparts on Saturday.
The players from the two sports faced off on one of the indoor courts at Uniprix Stadium for a friendly, if not sometimes intense, ball hockey game.
Jonathan Drouin, Michael McCarron and Charles Hudon proudly represented the Canadiens, playing against the likes of tennis stars Vasek Pospisil, Robin Haase and coach and former player Frederic Niemeyer. The NHL players - counting among them the Ottawa Senators' Alex Burrows, the Tampa Bay Lightning's Alex Killorn, the Dallas Stars' Antoine Roussel, the Florida Panthers' Jonathan Huberdeau and former Canadien Donald Audette - won it 5-4. But the score doesn't tell all.
"We were playing really hard, giving it 100%, and I think they played at 4%, maybe even 3%," explained Pospisil, the 72nd-ranked player in the world. "And we still lost!"
Pospisil, who lived in Montreal for a long time, is a Canadiens fan, and a Vancouver Canucks fan, too - he asserts that's because he's from British Columbia. His Habs fandom most likely took a boost when his hockey skills were noticed by a Canadien - including the fact that Pospisil opened the scoring.
"I had no idea Pospisil could play hockey!" cracked Michael McCarron, himself a big tennis fan. "In fact, I didn't know any of the tennis players knew how to play, I thought it was a tough sport to learn. They were good and they made us look like… non-professionals!"
"It was fun to watch," added Hudon. "Alex Burrows and I were wondering if Vasek was going to play this week because he was tough on the stick, he really wanted to get the puck."
McCarron feels like the meeting between the athletes from two completely different sides of the sporting world was a unique experience to take part in.
"We see them as superstars and they see us as superstars, so it goes both ways," said the Habs' giant, who was always a big Milos Raonic fan due to his height - McCarron is 6-foot-6, Raonic 6-foot-5.
The Habs' No. 34 doesn't see himself capable of returning a powerful serve from the Canadian tennis star, ranked 10th in the world.
"I'm not good at tennis," he confided. "I've tried, it just doesn't work."
Drouin, who experienced his first big crowd since joining the Canadiens organization, had a great day.
"It was a great experience, it's fun to see the tennis players with us," he said after signing a few autographs and snapping tons of photos with his new fans. "I like tennis, I like going to see it."
The Habs players will be back at Uniprix Stadium throughout the week to take in some more tennis. Drouin, for example, is a big Federer fan, and can't wait to see his favorite tennis star in action.
"He's one of my favorites of any sport," Drouin concluded in reference to the Swiss player, who owns a record 19 Grand Slam titles.