TORONTO - Jesse Blacker versus Stuart Percy was starting to sound like those endless Wrestlemania or UFC events with the lengthy Roman numerals.
So the Ontario Hockey League rivals, Blacker from Owen Sound, Percy from St. Mike’s, were relieved to find out they’d been placed on the same White team defence at the Maple Leafs’ prospect camp this week, and were stablemates in the big team’s dressing room at the MasterCard Centre.
They were worn out after a couple of regular season meetings, a bitter seven-game OHL playoff series (won by the Attack) and two rematches in the Memorial Cup playdowns (a split).
“We’re so used to playing against each other, now we’re sitting beside each other,” Blacker said.
They started off the week being respectful of what the other went through in the spring, making the playoffs a taboo topic. But it didn’t last.
“He was fortunate to get the win in the OHL final and he’s given that back to me a couple of times this week,” Percy said with a laugh. “He was one of their strongest offensive defenceman in that series. I knocked him down once, but I haven’t told him that yet.”
Blacker, a second-round pick in 2009, is a veteran at this camp, likely to play with the Marlies next year if he doesn’t scrape out a spot as the sixth or seventh Leaf defenceman. Percy, one of Toronto’s two first-rounders from this year, is still too raw for pro hockey, but is fully prepared for another year in Mississauga. In Thursday’s scrimmage game, they drew up a play during a last-minute timeout that led to Blacker’s tying goal. Percy had the shootout winner.
“He’s helped me with little tips about the camp,” Percy said. “When we played against each other, we were enemies, but we’re pretty good friends now, with a strong relationship to start off as Leafs.”
They have developed a good on-ice chemistry, too, though they weren’t paired regularly in the scrimmage games.
“Stuart’s a smart player, a guy I’d like to play with,” Blacker said. “He can move the puck, but also play a solid defensive game.”
One day they could be sharing the same Leaf room again, but as full-fledged teammates.
“You never know,” Blacker said. “You have to be prepared for anything. Coming out here and working hard is a first step. I’m sure we’ll be running into each other at off-ice training in the next year with (strength coach) Anthony Belza.”