(via Norman Provencher, Ottawa Citizen) “I would have loved to play with him.”

You’d think Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder would get enough exercise working out at the band’s legendary high-energy shows.

But there he was last Friday evening at the Rideau Sports Centre in skateboard-type shorts and high-tops, looking for a court game and a racquet, which he borrowed from RSC’s founder & CEO, Nicki Bridgland.

Bridgland said Wednesday she was still feeling pleasant afterglow from the encounter.

At one point while Bridgland was talking with Vedder; he apologized for speaking quietly, as he was protecting his voice.

“I said, ‘Oh, no, are you all right? Are you coming down with something?” she said, knowing the COVID-19 pandemic was far from over.

“No, no, I feel great,” the singer said. “I just have to protect my voice. I give everything … at the shows.”

Vedder gifted Bridgland a number of show tickets and Bridgland — who described Pearl Jam’s music as central to her when she was at university — saw what he was talking about. She likened the Pearl Jam show at the Canadian Tire Centre on Sept. 3 to popular dramatic rock iconic acts such as U2 and Coldplay. “Eddie Vedder’s voice feels primal, like he’s singing from the core of the Earth. It’s one of my favourite voices of all time”

Vedder also earned plenty of bonus points when he reminded the CTC crowd that one of the band’s first tours brought them to the storied Centre Robert-Guertin (a.k.a. ‘Le Bob’) in Gatineau.

Gatineau has a new arena for big shows, the Centre Slush Puppie, which would probably look interesting on a band itinerary.

But how was his tennis game?

“I would have loved to play with him. It looked like he was having fun out there, and our levels would be matched,” she said, laughing over the phone.

Overall, Bridgland said, she was probably most impressed with the star’s down-to-earth attitude.

Bridgland said the centre went along with the low-key nature of the visit.

“We wanted to keep Eddie Vedder’s privacy,” Bridgland said. “Even with the photos I took with him, I told him we would not share on our social media until he had left the property … so that he could play in peace.”

The first photos hit Bridgland’s social media 12 hours later and didn’t appear on RSC’s sites until four days later.

Even though Vedder’s a superstar, his visit largely fit in with the RSC business philosophy. Everyone is welcome, no membership is required..

“The thing about an athletic centre like this, it really is about the glue of the social connection. I say the sports side is 50 per cent and the social side is 50 per cent,” Bridgland said when she took over the facility in 2017 and created the start-up business Rideau Sports Centre and the onsite restaurant The Bridge Public House.