MONTREAL - While the inaugural Pleky vs. Lehky Tennis Showdown in the Czech Republic didn't go Artturi Lehkonen's way, the young Finn is already setting the stage for a rematch next summer.
On Thursday, Lehkonen formally extended an invitation to Tomas Plekanec to hit the court in Finland following the 2019-20 campaign.
Last weekend, the pair went head-to-head on clay in Brno. Plekanec posted a 6-1, 7-5 straight-sets victory in the opening encounter on Saturday, before adding a 6-4 win on Sunday in a one-set contest.
It's plain to see that the reunion was about more than tennis, though.
To this day, Lehkonen still regards the former Canadiens centerman as a key figure in his development.
"He was my mentor. He showed me the ins and outs of how to be a professional NHL player. He helped me out with pretty much everything," said Lehkonen, ahead of his trip to visit the 15-year NHL veteran and his girlfriend, former WTA star Lucie Safarova. "We're good buddies. At least I like to think so. He probably thinks I'm annoying, but it's a lot of fun with him. We talk every now and then during the summer, and especially throughout the year."
And the tremendous respect Lehkonen has for the two-time Olympian is rather evident.
"When a guy of that type leaves, there are little things you kind of miss - especially with a guy like Pleky, who was such a great pro. He was always professional with everything he did, including his workouts," praised Lehkonen. "You tag along with it really fast if you watch him. You really notice the difference when they've been in the League for a long time. He was a good dude in the locker room. He was a special, special guy for sure."
It will be interesting to see if Lehkonen plans on stocking his cheering section with home supporters for the second annual duel.
His offseason residence in Turku is just 140 km south of Pori, so both Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia could easily make the trip in support of their countryman.
Apparently, Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher might be interested in making an appearance as well...
We'll see what happens planning-wise, of course, but it should be another memorable event!