MONTREAL - Canada is slowly but surely climbing the ranks on the international tennis scene, with Milos Raonic leading the way and Felix Auger-Aliassime in the pipeline. Vasek Pospisil is another name making headlines, after realizing the impressive feat of becoming Wimbledon doubles champion alongside the United States' Jack Sock in 2014. A win at Wimbledon is akin to winning the Stanley Cup. We sat down to chat hockey with the player currently ranked 75th in the world after he swapped his racket for a stick to face some NHL players as part of the Rogers Cup festivities, which continue until August 13 in Montreal.
How closely do you follow hockey?
VASEK POSPISIL: I follow it closely. I lived in Montreal for a few years, so I watched a lot of Canadiens games. I also follow the Canucks, since I'm from Vancouver. I know it can be tough to be a fan of both, but those are my two teams.
How do you feel when you come back to Montreal?
VP: It's really special every time I come back. The crowd here… there's no other city I've played in around the world that has people as passionate about sports in general as they are here. They really like tennis, so I enjoy it every time I come. The fact that I'm Canadian and have a lot of fans here helps, too.
Did you ever play hockey? The NHL players you played ball hockey against gave you glowing a scouting report.
VP: I played street hockey with my brother until I was 10 or 11, but I haven't played at all since then. So when I was out there against NHL players, I just tried to run a lot and put a lot of pressure on them - but I don't think I was quite as good as they said I was.
You still managed to score against NHLers…
VP: Yes, I scored, and after I did, I told myself that it was a good day. But it didn't go quite as well after that. I think the guys weren't fully warmed up when I scored that goal. (laughs)
What are you more afraid of, a Milos Raonic ace or a Shea Weber slapshot?
VP: Definitely the slapshot. I'm used to returning serves in tennis, but slapshots are something else. I think I'd probably be a bit scared of it. It must be really impressive to see on the ice; a puck is a bit harder than a tennis ball!
You play an individual sport, but do you enjoy the team aspect of hockey?
VP: Honestly, I love being a part of a team. I played a lot of soccer when I was younger, and I always really liked it. I think I'd enjoy being an NHL player. Maybe in another life… or another career. It's a little late now. (laughs) I like the one-on-one competition in tennis because it's all on you, but I'd definitely like playing for a team, too.
Have you watched many games at the Bell Centre?
VP: I did when I lived in Montreal, but it's been a few years since I've been. I'd like to come back soon.
How would you compare the atmosphere at the Bell Centre to that of the US Open?
VP: The atmosphere at the Bell Centre is incredible. Canadiens games are always very special. I think sporting events in Montreal are different than what I've seen elsewhere in the world. You can feel the passion and I think that's part of why I've made such a strong connection to the city