Chris Van Vliet is a dual sport athlete. That rhymes, but it also happens to be true. He’s already learned the ins and outs of long snapping in football, so now he’s taking his talents from the field to the rink.
It’s no secret that I am from Canada, and as a Canadian, you learn how to skate before you learn how to walk. So when Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov invited me to hit the ice with him to try out for a spot on the team, it was a dream come true.
Commentator: “Barkov! Let’s go home, baby!”
Barkov is a master at scoring goals and making goalies look silly while he does it.
Commentator: “To the backhand, he tucks it in!”
On Thursday, he invited me to Fort Lauderdale Beach to show me some of his secrets and let me try out for the team.
Aleksander Barkov: “First of all, you get this jersey.”
Chris Van Vliet: “OK.”
Aleksander Barkov: “That’s the first step, so you look like a Florida Panther.”
Chris Van Vliet: “Number 7, Channel 7, perfect. So we’ve already got the looking good part out of the way.”
Aleksander Barkov: “Look good, feel good, play good.”
Chris Van Vliet: “You guys may notice that we are on the beach right now and, obviously, you can’t have actual ice on the beach, so what are we on here right now?”
Aleksander Barkov: “It’s artificial ice by HockeyShot Company. You’re not going to glide like you glide on the ice.”
The goal, pun intended, is to score in a shootout and earn a spot on the Florida Panthers roster.
Chris Van Vliet: “You go first. Show me what I should be doing here.”
*Barkov skates down and scores*
Chris Van Vliet: “Ohhh! It’s that easy?”
Aleksander Barkov: “Uhh, just put the puck in the net.”
Chris Van Vliet: “Just put the puck in the net. That’s great advice. Thank you.”
Aleksander Barkov: “All right, are we ready?”
Chris Van Vliet: “Uh-oh, uh-oh. We got like knuckle puck here. OK, that wasn’t very good. That was not a good start.”
Clearly we need a different strategy.
Aleksander Barkov: “Try to go backhand.”
Chris Van Vliet: “Try to go backhand? Oh wait, now he heard us.”
*I start to skate down, shoot, miss.*
Chris Van Vliet: “Ohhh! That was better. It was close!”
Chris Van Vliet: “The fact that I haven’t fallen is pretty impressive.”
Aleksander Barkov: “Yeah, just keep going and get one goal and you’ll make the team.”
Easier said than done after this.
*Another attempt, the goalie saves it.*
*I try again, goalie saves it.*
*I skate down, he saves it.*
Aleksander Barkov: “Ohh, you had him.”
Chris Van Vliet: “I had him.”
After those attempts, Barkov has an idea.
Aleksander Barkov: “Maybe you want to try my stick.”
Chris Van Vliet: “You’d let me do that?”
Aleksander Barkov: “Yeah.”
Chris Van Vliet: “Wow.”
Aleksander Barkov: “It’s longer, so you have longer reach.”
*I skate down and score.*
Chris Van Vliet: “Hey! Ohhh, ho ho ho, yeah! Top cheese! What do you think?”
Aleksander Barkov: “You showed him a couple of moves, so he was expecting something else, and then you just surprised him. Congrats, you made the team.”
Chris Van Vliet: “Wow, thank you so much!”
I swear, I wasn’t leaving there until I scored. Even if it took all week. It only took 19 tries.
A huge thank you to Aleksander Barkov and the Florida Panthers for making this happen. So far, I’ve tried out for the Dolphins and the Panthers … which means the Heat and the Marlins are next.
So what do you want to see me do next? Hit me up with suggestions by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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