From the outside, hockey and NASCAR appear to be completely different-because they are. But when Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland and NASCAR champion Kurt Busch traded places for a day, they saw similarities in the two completely separate sports.
Busch, Engelland, and AT&T SportsNet Analyst Shane Hnidy took to the ice at City National Arena Monday morning to give Busch a crash-course on being a hockey player. Just before they hit the ice, Busch said he felt confident despite having skated only four or five times prior, though he worried he wouldn't look as graceful as his new linemates.
Engelland and Hnidy put Busch through a series of drills, focusing mostly on stickhandling, shooting and passing the puck. Though Busch, a Las Vegas native, had to focus on maintaining his balance, he was able to consistently put the puck in the net.
"It was a treat to be out on the ice," Busch said. "To be on the ice with skates and a stick, I've never done that. It's a little slick out there."
The final drill that the trio went through was hitting. As Busch leaned into Hnidy along the boards, they talked about how similar that process was to making a move along the wall during a race.
"There's parallels between racing and the game of hockey, especially along the wall," Hnidy said. "Rubbing out, getting physical, but it's a little more dangerous with the cars."
After skating for 45 minutes, skates were exchanged for firesuits as the scene shifted from City National Arena to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Engelland and Hnidy became the ones out of their element when Busch brought them to the track to drive stock cars.
Hockey is a fast game, but Engelland said that the speed he experienced when he sat next to Busch for a few laps was like nothing he'd ever felt before.
"It was unbelievable," Engelland said. "That's definitely something off the bucket list."
Busch gave Engelland and Hnidy a few go-arounds to get used to the speed of a stock car before they took to the track on their own. Busch was encouraging them to see how fast they could go, but Engelland and Hnidy kept the cars under control-as any first-time stock car driver would.
After they returned to pit row, Engelland presented Busch with his very own Golden Knights jersey with his car No. 41 stitched on the back. Busch had some gear to share as well as he gave Hnidy and Engelland NASCAR jerseys of their own.
At day's end, Engelland and Busch had new-found respect for each other's sports. Professional athletes recognize how much it takes to compete at the highest level and, any time they can get a glimpse of another sport, they can appreciate how much work, discipline and competitive spirit go into being successful.
Engelland and the Golden Knights kick off the regular season on Oct. 4, but Busch returns to Las Vegas Motor Speedway from Sept. 13-16 for the South Point 400, which is the first race of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.