NEW YORK – Attention hockey world: Sam Bennett can now do a pull-up.
This is significant because Bennett, the top rated hockey prospect in North America ahead of June’s NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia, couldn’t do one at the NHL Scouting Combine last month. And this became news. National news.
“Really didn’t think it was that big a deal until the next couple of days when it went crazy,” said Bennett on Monday, attending the Stanley Cup Final with other top prospects.
The news spread quickly through junior hockey blogs. The Toronto Star did a roundup of hockey fitness experts’ opinions on his pull-up deficiency. Bennett, projected as a top five pick from the Kingston Frontenacs, was suddenly The Guy Who Can’t Do a Pull-Up.
“It really did bother me. It’s just … I know I couldn’t do them, but obviously I’m going to keep working on them,” he said. “I guess that’s how people are labeling me right now. There’s nothing I can really do about it, except for work hard in the gym and get better.”
And so he hit the gym after that, working on his upper body strength. In a development that’s likely to get a lot less coverage, he can do multiple pull-ups now.
“I can do at least two. It’s not really a big deal. It was just the wrong time to get zero,” he said. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger in the end. To experience this at a young age, maybe helps be get through something when I’m older.”
The whole affair has been a test of character for Bennett, a 178-pound, 17-year-old forward. And he received endless support from friends, family and those in the hockey world – from “hey, Gary Roberts didn’t do one either when he was your age” to an unexpected phone call from Ottawa Senators star Jason Spezza.
“I don’t really know him at all, but he trains at my gym. He said he had to call this kid, because he felt bad for him. He said he’s been through a lot of criticism, and you just have to find a way to deal with it,” he said.
The most important thing for Bennett is that this pull-up embarrassment hasn’t impacted his standing as a top prospect in the least. If anything, scouts and potential NHL suitors simply understand that he’s a talented scorer who's also a teenager, needing to get stronger.
“I haven’t talked to one person that has anything to do with hockey that think it’ll affect me at all,” he said. “The only people it’s affecting are the people that don’t know how little a pull-up means to the game of hockey.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter if I can do a pull-up," he said. "It’s my performance on the ice."
That said, Sam Bennett’s up to two. And counting.