Friendship survives

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:51 AM ET

When Danny Maciocia stands on the visitor's sideline at Canad Inns Stadium on Saturday for the East Division playoff semifinal game, he will be on the opposite side of the field from his closest friend in the CFL coaching ranks.

The Edmonton Eskimos head coach calls Doug Berry -- the Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach -- his best friend in their profession.

It's a relationship that started in 1999 in Montreal when the pair worked together on the Alouettes' coaching staff.

And to this day the friendship is so tight that Berry is relieved to get the Edmonton games off his schedule.

"I'm always glad when the series (in the regular season) is over," said Berry.

"Winning is first. But you don't want to beat a friend. It's unfortunate one has to lose."

One friend will continue to have a 2008 Grey Cup dream after Saturday, and the other will be extremely disappointed.

This marks the first time these 10-year friends will be against each other as head coaches in the CFL post-season.

But years from now, this crossover playoff game will just be another chapter in a book of funny memories and quick one-liners.

"I don't like the guy," cracked Maciocia about Berry when initially asked for his thoughts on the Bombers bench boss.

"I met him in Montreal when he was hired as the O-line coach. We were together for a few years (in Montreal).

"I saw him snap in Montreal with the O-line or in meetings -- and I think he is a pretty funny guy when he snaps."

To an outsider, the first thing to come to mind with Berry is his ugly, glaring looks on the Winnipeg sideline.

Remarkably intense, it appears Berry might be the most intimidating head coach in the league.

But Maciocia chuckles at any suggestion that it's dangerous to get close to his friend.

"No, no, no. He is a pussycat," replied Maciocia.

"He won't tear anybody apart. He is just a guy that gets wound up. There is nothing wrong with that. He is a good person."

But Maciocia can still clearly remember Berry blowing his stack one day at the Big O.

"He got mad in a meeting we were having at the Olympic Stadium one year. And he got so pissed -- we were in the basement of that stadium -- he walked up and sat in stands for I don't know how long," he remarked.

When asked for any colourful stories on Maciocia snapping during his time in Montreal, Berry replied: "He had to be careful, he was coaching Mike Pringle."

That is a direct reference to Pringle's personality -- which is best described as fiery.

Off the field, it wasn't uncommon for Berry to be a dinner guest at Maciocia's house.

"He would come over to my place a few times for supper. We would have lunch together," said Edmonton's current bench boss.

"He is a good, knowledgable, organized, meticulous coach that has got a good sense of humour and a guy everybody would like to have a beer with."

If any year might have tested their friendship, it would be this one.

It was this fall when Edmonton middle linebacker Agustin Barrenechea hammered Winnipeg quarterback Kevin Glenn with a helmet-to-helmet hit.

It sparked two scuffles on the field and a weeklong string of media stories, complete with Barrenechea being fined for his actions.

"(Berry) has got his opinion about the hit. It doesn't matter if I agree or disagree," said Maciocia. "I am very respectful of the way he feels. We are not always going to agree on everything.

"Our friendship is way too strong for something like that to stand in the way."

And that brings us to this week -- where two friends are going to spend several days plotting to end the other's season on Saturday.


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