OSTRAVA, Czechia - Martin Pospisil took a moment.

To soak it in.

To look back.

To appreciate what's ahead.

Because the 24-year-old, whose career had been derailed by injury after injury, concussion after concussion, wasn't sure there'd be a day when he'd be in a position to tug on a Team Slovakia jersey ever again.

"I still kind of can't believe it, you know?" Pospisil started, pausing momentarily to collect himself.

"I was kind of emotional before the game, because last year at this time, I was thinking about what to do with my hockey career. Last year at this time, I'm thinking I might have to quit my hockey career.

"And then I had a full season in the NHL and now I represent my country. It means a lot."

Pospisil never stopped dreaming.

Never stopped persevering.

An ongoing recovery from a concussion last winter, at least temporarily, put hockey on hold.

It put life on hold.

The health concern, compounded with its interference in everyday activities, had the energetic, annoying winger from Zvolen close to hanging up the skates for good.

But he didn't.

And his eventual recovery allowed him to flip that script dramatically.

"I mean, it's crazy," Pospisil said. "Last year, from January until April I couldn't even drive. I couldn't do normal things. I had lots of support from my family and friends. I was working out for like six, seven months. Sometimes I was in lots of pain, especially after a hard practice. I didn't take one day off after six or seven months.

"I had a really good fitness testing at the beginning of the season. I played six games with the Wranglers. I was like, this is my season... (screw) it, I'll go all-in.

"Same when I got called up. I was going to enjoy it and show what's inside of me."

He certainly did.

Pospisil, who had also previously been slowed by torn knee ligaments and shoulder surgery in addition to his concussion issues, burst onto the scene in the NHL, parlaying an early November recall into an impactful rookie season that saw him accumulate eight goals, 24 points, 109 minutes in penalties, a league-wide reputation, and a renewed sense of affirmation.

Add in a trip to Ostrava, just over 200 kilometres from his hometown, for his first tour with Slovakia's men's national program, too.

A well-earned twirl.


"I know what he's gone through," said Slovakia coach Craig Ramsay, who hoisted the Stanley Cup as an associate coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. "He's pretty excited to be here. He went through some tough times. We wanted to try him before and there was always that something, a concussion."

Pospisil, who had previously represented Slovakia at the 2017 IIHF World Under-18 Championship and 2019 World Junior Championship, had to have a patient wait to hit the stage.

Ramsay had to wait patiently to get him in Slovakia's colours after tracking his early NHL outings.

"I'll tell you what... when I first saw him called up and watched the highlights, he drove the net so hard, dragged the defenceman with him right into the goal crease banging around... there was a rebound for somebody else," Ramsay said.

"He hangs around the front. He plays with aggression. He can battle with anyone. So we hope that size and physicality is something we've been kind of looking for and hoping he can fill that void.

"Sometimes you just need someone to change the tempo of the game and I believe he's one of those guys who can help do that."

Pospisil is that player.


And all the uncertainty he powered through proved worth it.

"When I look back, I was probably... didn't do it if somebody told me what is he going to do in the future," Pospisil said. "But I went step-by-step, day-by-day, and I was grinding every day. If there was a chance I could do a workout and or ice practice, then I will do it. Finally, my head got better and I had the motivation, I sign a contract and I really appreciate it for Calgary.

"I went through lots of injuries, but they were still believing me that one day I will make it. It means a lot and that's why I signed that contract right away, two years. I'm really excited for the next two seasons."

Before that, he's excited for the next two weeks.

Still with a bit of red on his jersey.

But mixed in with some white and blue, too.

"It means a lot," Pospisil said. "Representing your country and your hometown, where I grew up, it's very special. I was enjoying the whole game.

"It's very special to wear the jersey."