From backyard rink to the Memorial Cup

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:34 PM ET

BRANDON — It must have been quite a pond hockey game.

It was more than a decade ago, in a small, backyard rink in Saskatoon.

The rink belonged to the Bubnicks — Hitmen forward Jimmy and his older brother Michael, a former Hitmen.

But the Schenns — Brandon Wheat Kings sniper Brayden and older sibling Luke, a defenceman with the Toronto Maple Leafs — were always welcome.

“(Hitmen defenceman) Kyle Aschim was there, too,” Brayden Schenn said. “We all lived on the same street.

“We played outdoor hockey. The pickup games — that’s what we did to try to get better, and I think it helped us out.”

Bubnick said their parents would usually have to chase them off the rink.

“We’d use the community pond or the rink in my backyard,” Bubnick said.

“We’d spend days and days on end out on the ice.”

And, even back then, Bubnick could see his friend was going to be quite a player.

“He’s always had real good hands, and he’s always loved the game,” Bubnick said of Schenn.

“His passion for the game has really paid off.”

The two later played on the same line — along with current Regina Pats’ Carter Ashton — with the Saskatoon Contacts bantam AAA squad.

All three went in the top 10 of the WHL Bantam Draft — Bubnick went fifth to the Kamloops Blazers, followed by Ashton (seventh, Lethbridge Hurricanes) and Schenn (ninth, Wheat Kings).

Since then, Schenn has blossomed into a top NHL prospect and was selected in the first round (fifth overall) by the Los Angeles Kings in last summer’s NHL Entry Draft.

Schenn and Bubnick stayed in close contact even though the latter spent the first two-and-a-half seasons playing in the Western Conference with the Blazers.

Now, as Eastern Conference rivals, they see a lot more of each other.

“I’m not used to seeing him this much,” said Schenn, who will face the Hitmen for the 11th time this season in Friday night’s Memorial Cup semifinal.

“We’ve been friends since Grade 2. He’s been one of my best buddies ever since.

“It’s kinda cool that we’re both competing for the same championship.”

Other than the odd text message, the pair hasn’t spent much time together this week.

With their teams meeting twice in three nights — and with a berth in the Memorial Cup final on the line — that likely won’t change.

“Once the tournament is over, we’ll be best buddies,” Schenn said. “But right now, there’s no friends on the ice.”

Bubnick knows someone is going to be bitterly disappointed Friday night.

“We’ve been friends all of our lives, so we talk quite a bit,” Bubnick said. “A little friendly competition doesn’t hurt anything.

“Come Friday, there will be some harsh feelings, but we’ll leave it all on the ice.”

scott.fisher@sunmedia.ca


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