Brendan Bell needs no introduction to the intense rivalry that is the Battle of Ontario.
He has lived it.
A native of Ottawa who played junior hockey with the hometown 67s, Bell sat in the stands at the Air Canada Centre a number of years ago watching a nail-biting playoff game between the Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators.
"I remember coming to Toronto and sitting in the last row," Bell said. "It was just after I had been drafted, and I recall that Alex Mogilny scored two goals.
"It was just so exciting to be in the building and feel the intensity."
He'll get to experience that electricity first hand this week when the Leafs face the Sens in Toronto tomorrow followed by a date in Ottawa on Thursday.
"I went to a lot of games over the years, including the Leafs and Sens," he said. "I wasn't really a Leafs or Sens fans, I was a hockey fan. Actually, I don't know if I should be saying this but I was a real Wade Redden fan."
Bell spent most of his hockey life in the nation's capital, spending four years with the 67s. His stint under the tutelage of Hall of Fame coach Brian Kilrea was highlighted in 2003 when he was named the Canadian Hockey League's defenceman of the year.
After being mired in the minors for several seasons, Bell overcame a pre-season ankle injury and has worked his way into the Leafs lineup.
"He has earned the minutes he has received here," an impressed Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice said.
"It's good to be reassured," Bell said when informed of Maurice's comments. "It's good to know the coach has confidence in you. I'm not intimidated by playing in the NHL. I've prepared to play at this level since I was 15. I feel I can play here."
So does Maurice, who paired Bell with fellow rookie Ian White to provide an offensive spark in the third period and overtime of Toronto's 5-4 shootout loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday night.
Now Bell prepares to face his hometown team for the first time.
"It should be fun. I'm looking forward to it,"he said.