Dale Hawerchuk and Doug Gilmour go way back to the days when both were young novice-age players lacing up their skates for Oshawa and Kingston minor hockey teams.
Teammates on the 1981 Memorial Cup champion Cornwall Royals, Hawerchuk and Gilmour would become National Hockey League rivals, especially in the years when both were playing in Western Canada. Hawerchuk played for the Winnipeg Jets while Gilmour was with the Calgary Flames, scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 1989.
Hawerchuk never played on a Cup championship team, but he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001. Gilmour still awaits that honour.
Combined, they have played more than 2,700 NHL games and scored nearly 1,000 goals.
There was a recent first for the hockey men, now both 47 years old. It came Friday night at the K-Rock Centre in Kingston. Gilmour was in his usual position behind the bench for the hometown Frontenacs. Down to the left were the visiting Barrie Colts and first-year OHL coach Hawerchuk.
"We've known each other a long time. I played against Dale since I was six or seven," Gilmour said.
"I called (Dale) in the summer when he first took the job. Yes, I guess it is the first time we have coached against each other," he said, adding that Hawerchuk had experience in Tier II junior as an owner, general manager-coach and director of hockey operations for the Orangeville Crushers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Hawerchuk said he didn't have quite the same plan for the Frontenacs that his Oshawa team employed against Gilmour's Kingston minor hockey clubs.
"Our game plan against Kingston was to hit that little defenceman they called Gilmour and take him right out of the play," Hawerchuk said.
"It was interesting to see him come to Cornwall as a centre when they drafted him from Belleville (Tier II junior with the Belleville Bulls, who were coached by Larry Mavety, now the general manger for Gilmour with the Frontenacs)."
Gilmour joined Cornwall the year after the Royals had won the 1980 Memorial Cup with Hawerchuk, as a dazzling 16-year-old, leading the way. The Royals repeated their Memorial Cup win the next year and Hawerchuk gave a lot of credit to Gilmour.
"He was probably the key piece that we picked up in the draft. He gave us three good lines. I was at centre on one, (current Columbus Blue Jackets coach and former Winnipeg Jets player) Scott Arniel on another, and Dougie. It was his first year in the league and he just got better and better. By playoff time, we were a pretty dominant team."
There was another common thread to Gilmour , Hawerchuk and Arniel, also a Kingston native, all being in Cornwall. Gord Wood, the hockey scout from Kingston, was the man who spotted the talent in all three.
"Gord Wood was one of the greats in the scouting industry. That guy could just find players. He had something special, a God-given talent," Hawerchuk said.
"He always had a good feeling on certain guys and boy, his hunches played out quite a bit."
Hawerchuk said his association with the Wood family and the things he learned from being a junior player in Cornwall help guide him now in the OHL.
"I feel fortunate I learned from people like that. You try to do a lot of the similar things," Hawerchuk said. "In Cornwall, we were made to feel a big part of it as soon as we walked into town. That's what we try to do with (the Colts), too."
Hawerchuk sees Gilmour's playing style in the Frontenacs. He wants to build a similar style with the Colts.
"We both respected each other just because we were always hungry hockey players," Hawerchuk said. "We always wanted to win. He has instilled that in his group and that's what I want in my group."
"We realize the kids don't all see the game maybe the way we saw the game. But if you are hungry and want it bad enough, a lot of good things will happen for you."
When the Colts upset the Frontenacs 5-1, Gilmour saw Barrie players competing for every minute of the game -- the same thing Hawerchuk did in a 17-year NHL career.
"He was obviously a tremendous player. He was a finesse player and at the same time he competed," Gilmour said.
"He was deceiving. You didn't know he was fast but he was fast. He had a really good look-off where it was almost a fake pass all the time. He'd have you going one way and he would go the other."