AUCKLAND, NZ. — I had already decided that I was going to watch the 2018 Ice Hockey Classic. When it was announced that Byron Froese of the Montreal Canadiens would be appearing in the New Zealand and Sydney games the excitement levels were bumped up tenfold.
The event, organised by the SportsConcussions Foundation, not only educates and promotes awareness of concussions globally, it promotes the game of ice hockey in New Zealand and Australia. Bringing current and former NHL and AHL players as well as European based players it gives locals the opportunity to see players that we’ve only ever seen on TV.
As well as Froese, there were two other players with connections to the Canadiens organisation. Current New York Ranger Peter Holland, and Calder Cup winner Kyle Braun, the player traded to Toronto Maple Leafs with Tomas Plekanec, also made the trip. These players generously give up their own time to make the trip and to support the work of StopConcussions.
With Froese, Holland and Baun playing on the same line they were the driving force for this Canadian team and were instrumental in all the Canadian game highlights. There production in this game was pretty impressive; Holland (3 goals, 3 assists), Froese (2 goals, 1 assist) and Baun (2 goals.) Holland deservedly took out the Canadian MVP award as Canada ran out 8-5 winners.
Following the game, I had an opportunity to ask Froese a few questions.
With regards to his linemates and their success Froese said “They’re two guys I’ve played together with before at Laval early in the season last year. [They’re] two guys I’m very familiar with and two good players. It helps when you’ve played with someone before as you know what they’re going to do and their tendencies.”
Froese appeared pleased with the welcome they received from the Auckland crowd saying “The fans are unbelievable especially cheering for our team, they were loud the whole game which is sort of what we expected. When you come out the gate and see a full arena (8,250 spectators) it’s really cool, a really special feeling and getting to know the city a little bit, it’s an awesome place.”
Having never been to New Zealand was Froese enjoying any down time? “We have some down time for sure,” he said. “We had a couple of days and went over to the wineries to check them out (on Waiheke Island) and went to Devonport to have some lunch up on the hill where there were some awesome views. We’ve got around for sure, when you’re on these trips you try and take in as much of the scenery as you can. It’s not every day that you get to come to New Zealand.”
When asked about his summer, Froese replied “It’s going good. I’m training hard for next season and trying to get faster on my feet and all those other good things. I’m also enjoying family time and hanging out with friends that I haven’t seen all year so it’s been a good summer so far.” Byron’s wife Teil is accompanying him on this trip to the Southern Hemisphere.
“I’m training hard for next season and trying to get faster on my feet and all those other good things.”
Speaking about the cause that they are all supporting, namely SportsConcussions, Froese went on to say, “I’ve never had a diagnosed concussion, or even been aware of having one. There’s the odd hit where you feel dizzy for two seconds or so but then I feel fine. I’ve been very fortunate to stay away from them, but I’ve seen the way it effects guys around me and my team mates, my friends. You know what, it’s something you have to take very seriously. I’d advise anyone feeling a little bit off to take precautions. Your brain is everything to your body and the things that are coming out now and that you read about, especially with the ex fighters is really sad. You want to have a life after hockey and to enjoy your family.”
Will Froese be tuning into the NHL Entry Draft? “I don’t know, we have a game at four pm. so I don’t really know, I’ve no idea what with the time change. I’ll definitely take a look at it when it’s all done.”
Froese hopes to be back in Montreal next season. In my personal opinion, he is a nice guy who gave up his own time repping the CH this summer. He wore his Canadiens helmet during the game and warmed up in his Canadiens gear, all whilst supporting a great cause. He’s also a pretty good player, and it’s been a pleasure seeing him in New Zealand.