Friend and foe a fine line in sports

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:15 AM ET

It was a spectacular marathon on ice.

The London Knights and the Peterborough Petes are locked in a battle for the right to represent the OHL at the Memorial Cup in Moncton later this month and Peterborough drew first blood with a 6-5 double overtime win.

There was rancour, nastiness, name-calling. There were thunderous hits, some stickwork.

Hatred is a bit strong, but there is extreme dislike. This could be a long series. Familiarity breeds contempt and all.

But just as yesterday's enemy can be today's ally in world politics, the same holds true in sport.

The guy who shakes your bones today could well be shaking your hand next time you see him. High sticks become high-fives. A punch in the noggin is replaced by a pat on the bum.

At the moment, Knight Rob Schremp is not likely to embrace Petes Bryan Young and Liam Reddox but could one day, since all three are Edmonton Oilers draft picks.

Defenceman Matt Pelech would be hard-pressed to say nice things about Petes' shooter Daniel Ryder, but they could both have the Calgary Flames logo on their chests one day.

What about Dylan Hunter? The Knights captain might find himself centring a line with Patrick Kaleta on right wing in the Buffalo Sabres organization, with fellow Knight Adam Dennis guarding the Sabres goal.

It goes on and on between these teams, who have a total of 18 NHL draft choices on their roster, eight on London and 10 with Peterborough.

The milk of human kindness did not course through the veins of London tough guy Josh Beaulieu when it came to Petes' stick of dynamite Steve Downie. One day, they could be striving in lockstep toward a common goal on behalf of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Same with Sergei Kostitsyn, the Knights resident humorist from Belarus. Greg Stewart is on the next bench during these playoffs but the two might be sharing the same one with the Montreal Canadiens.

These guys aren't likely to suddenly get friendly as this series continues. And, as mentioned, it promises to continue a long way.

London won both games against Peterborough this season but that's history now. No team held a territorial advantage last night. The goaltending ended up being excellent as the shots, including a penalty shot saved by Dennis, totalled 131.

The difference between international relations and those of sports is the immediacy of fun and games. The guy you trade punches with one night could be your teammate the next and all is forgiven.

Even opponents widely despised by a team don't take long to become part of the new dynamic. As a foe, Darcy Tucker was not held high in any Toronto Maple Leaf's esteem but the moment he hit Toronto, he was instantly seen as an asset by guys who wanted to chase him out of town earlier.

Same thing here. But don't expect anybody on either team during this series to regard anybody on the other team as anything but an enemy, a guy who stands in the way of a trip to the Memorial Cup.

The stage was set last night for a long series. This was game made even longer when a pane of glass at the east end of the rink was knocked loose as the first overtime period wound down.

One day, when this is over and they wind up as pro teammates, somebody will have bragging rights.


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