The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

John Isner: Tennis player, hockey fan

August 9, 2019

John Isner made his way to IGA Stadium to play in his sixth Rogers Cup in Montréal with his usual arsenal: FILA kits, plenty of racquets and his remarkably extensive collection of caps. 

When he’s not competing, the World No.15 always, always wears a team cap, most often the Carolina Panthers (NFL) or the Carolina Hurricanes (NHL).

The last time we met up with him, he was proudly wearing a white cap with a small red and white hurricane.

The Hurricanes are coming off an unbelievable season. They also had all hockey nation talking about their theatrical postgame Storm Surge celebrations and run to the Eastern Conference Final. 

Isner is quick to specify that his home squad’s cap isn’t meant to provoke Habs fans, whose team didn’t make it to the playoffs.

“I’m not wearing this hat all week to rub it in, I just love the sports I have hats of a bunch of different teams. I love hockey in general. Hockey players love tennis for the most part and I have a good friend of mine who plays for Vancouver who lives here, we’re going to dinner tonight,” he assures.

The friend he mentions is tough Canuck Antoine Roussel. Along with former Canuck and current assistant coach of the Laval Rocket Alex Burrows, Roussel was on hand for Isner’s second-round match against Cristian Garin of Chile on Wednesday. The American fell in two sets (6-3, 6-4).

“I hurt my foot in Miami this year, and I didn’t play any clay court event in Europe, so I was home for the whole NHL playoffs. I went to three Hurricanes games in Raleigh. I live in Dallas, so I went to three or four home playoffs games there, I love it. Of course, I’ve become a big Stars fan as well because I go to a lot of their games. I live really close to the arena and I know a bunch of their guys. But Hurricanes comes first, they’re my favorite team,” said Isner.

The ace remembers the play-by-play of every match in the 2006 first-round showdown between the Canes and the Canadiens, which Carolina won in six games en route to its Stanley Cup victory.

Still, he admits he had a lot of difficulty with the hostile offer the Canadiens made to young gun and restricted free agent Sebastian Aho of the Hurricanes—a move that’s usually frowned upon in the NHL since it feels a lot like attempted theft.

Photo : Pascal Ratthé / Tennis Canada

On Wednesday, before heading into his Rogers Cup match, Isner buried the hatchet with his favourite team’s newest rivals when he was presented with an iconic red Canadiens jersey with the number 1 on the back. It may not be a cap but it’ll do.