Would you believe a couple of guys who just engaged in a seemingly rage-filled, bareknuckle beat down at center ice for all the world to see would laugh about it over a couple of cold ones after the game or exchange family Christmas cards during the holiday season?
Believe it or not, if you peel back the layers of some of the nastiest NHL rivalries, you might be surprised which guys are the first to lead a vengeful on-ice charge against the their foes on the opposite bench only to totally bro out with some of those very same guys away from the rink.
Oftentimes, guys will strike up a close friendship as youngsters as they climb the ranks together through junior, college or the minor league circuit. Other times, playing on a line together or having adjacent locker stalls in the dressing room can create an inseparable bromance, whether they remain longtime teammates or end up in opposite conferences.
On the ice, sure, they’re fierce enemies who hold nothing back. But once the horn sounds, friendships forged on ice rinks across the globe typically transcend the colors of the uniform or what the scoreboard shows at the end of the day.
From fishing buddies to business partners and everything in between, it’s more than just a game for some of the most talented skaters in the world’s most competitive league. Here are 15 examples of NHL stars who you might not realize are pals off the ice.
17 Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon
Sidney Crosby and Nate MacKinnon go way back – all the way back to youth hockey. They both grew up in the Halifax, Nova Scotia area and played their younger years in the Cole Harbour Bel Ayr Minor Hockey Association. They still call the area home, and in the summers, the pair hangs out with each other, works out together and even hits the golf links on an almost-daily basis. Last summer, they filmed another installment of their ever-popular Tim Hortons television commercials in which they clumsily operated the drive-through window while ribbing each other in good nature about who’s the more famous hometown hero. While the younger MacKinnon idolized Crosby as a kid, a natural friendship evolved out of their similar backgrounds, and their mutual admiration continues now, both on and off the ice.
16 Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack
NHL goaltenders are part of a special fraternity all to themselves, but when two are competing for the same job on the same team, it has the potential to cause some tension in the locker room. Fortunately for Roberto Luongo and Eddie Lack, the opposite happened when they played together in Vancouver during the 2013-14 season. While they were both with the Vancouver Canucks, the netminders developed an unbreakable bromance in which they encouraged one another to perform at a high level on the ice and chilled out together off of it. When Lack was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in June of 2015, he even went so far as to emblazon his old buddy Luongo’s face on his new goalie mask. Now both with different teams, they still like to poke fun at each other on social media.
15 Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn
These two. Just look at them. You can almost hear the cheery music rising to crescendo as they skip off together to do whatever hockey BFFs do. Adorable. There’s definitely something special between Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, which works out great for the Dallas Stars, because their on-ice chemistry as linemates produces a lot of offense. Beyond the rink, though, Seguin and Benn are inseparable. Seguin joined Benn and the stars after being traded from the Boston Bruins in 2013, and the rest is history. The pair roomed together for a while before buying houses just a few blocks apart. They share meals, they carpool, and they even do the little things like pick lint off each the other’s clothes. Who knows, before long they’ll probably be finishing each other’s sentences.
14 Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome
Aren’t these two youngsters just the cutest? Superstars Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome played junior together with the OHL’s Erie Otters from 2013 to 2015 and went first and third respectively in the 2015 draft. When you hang out with the same guy day in and day out at the rink, on road trips and in hotel rooms for two years straight, you’re bound to become close buddies and get to know each other perhaps better than you ever really planned. For McDavid and Strome, though, their mutual respect runs just as deep as the friendship they struck up during their amateur days. They talk each other up with genuine admiration when they’re not together. But, they’re not afraid to get a little silly in public either.
12 Zdeno Chara and Marian Hossa
Zdeno Chara and Marian Hossa are like those friends who might go months or even a year without talking, but as soon as they see each other or chat on the phone, they pick up right where they left off like old times. That’ll happen when two of Slovakia’s greatest hockey players ever grew up in the same small town in the western part of the country. While they’ve never played on the same NHL team, the pair have combined for a pretty intimidating offensive/defensive duo in international competition as representatives of their home country. Today, the two live right across the street from each other in Trencin, Slovakia and hang out quite a bit during the offseason. Chara has even been a guest of Hossa’s Stanley Cup celebration in Trencin multiple times, even after Chara’s Boston Bruins lost to Hossa’s Chicago Blackhawks in the finals in 2013.
11 Jonathan Quick and Matt Moulson
What started out as a close friendship in the minor leagues turned into Jonathan Quick and Matt Moulson marrying into the same family. So whether they like it or not (don’t worry, they do), their friendship-turned-brothers-in-law relationship will remain until death do they part. Quick and Moulson met when they both played for the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. Quick was dating his future wife, Jaclyn, at the time, and he decided to introduce his teammate, Moulson, to Jaclyn’s sister, Alicia, when the sisters took a trip to watch Quick one time at an away game. The rest, as they say, is history, and despite the couples living on opposite coasts, they still get together during the offseason to train and enjoy their time as one big, happy family.
10 T.J. Oshie and Jonathan Toews
These two buddies can trace their friendship all the way back to their troublemaking college days when they both suited up in the green and black of the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux. Their friendship developed in college, but they still find time to hang out with each other despite playing for different NHL teams. After all, when you make the local news in your college town for some delinquent adventures, you’ll share that bond forever. These days, Toews is a sniper forward for the Chicago Blackhawks, while Oshie fills a similar role for the Washington Capitals. Perhaps it’s fitting that these college linemates have both made international history for their prolific shootout abilities. Toews went 3-for-3 for Team Canada against the U.S. in the 2007 World Junior Championships, and Oshie put on a show at the 2014 Winter Olympics when he went 4-for-6 for Team USA against Russia.
9 Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville
These two have been through a lot together, but through it all, they’ve stuck together as pals. They first became teammates in the AHL when they played for the Rochester Americans in the 2004-05 season. Soon after, they became fast friends, linemates and even neighbors in Buffalo, where they played together for the Sabres from 2005 until 2013, when Pominville got traded out of the blue to the Minnesota Wild. Like good buddies do, Vanek did Pominville a solid by driving him to the airport early in the morning the day after he was traded for a bittersweet sendoff. But a happy reunion followed two years later when Vanek signed with the Wild as a free agent. And all seemed right with the world, but after two seasons in Minnesota, this time it was Vanek who was on the move. He signed with the Detroit Red Wings after the Wild bought out his contract in 2016. The pair still bro out in Minnesota during the offseason, though, where they both own homes.
8 Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak
When your teammates start calling you Bert and Ernie, you can’t deny that you and your bestie are, well, besties. That’s what Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak became when they played together on the Toronto Maple Leafs from 2010 to 2015. They played on the same line, golfed together when they weren’t on the ice, trained with each other during the offseason and were even roommates for a while. Hence, the Sesame Street reference. But they didn’t care. They shared common interests and made fast friends for all the world to see. Kessel basically took Bozak, an undrafted free agent who took the long way to the NHL, under his wing when he finally got into The Show, and the relationship grew from there. Now on separate teams, they still talk about the old times, but it’s all business when the meet on the ice.
7 Ondrej Pavelec, Michael Frolik and Jiri Tlusty
Some call them the Kladno Boys. The trio of friends from the small town in the Czech Republic all went from childhood teammates to the NHL and even spent part of a season reunited together with the Winnipeg Jets. After making their league debuts with separate teams, the three stayed in touch and even worked out together at home during the offseasons. They would each bounce around the league until the fateful season when all of their paths crossed in Winnipeg in 2015. They even recreated a photo taken during their younger days in their Jets uniforms, which made for a pretty cool throwback. Now separated once again, the Czech compatriots remain good friends – and occasional foes when they line up against each other on the ice.
6 Logan Couture and Drew Doughty
As time goes on, the relationship between San Jose Sharks centerman Logan couture and Los Angeles Kings blueliner Drew Doughty seems to have taken on more of a frenemy flavor than the old buddies from the same hometown storyline we thought we knew. Rewinding a little bit, Couture and Doughty both grew up in London, Ontario, where they played on the same youth hockey team before pursuing their pro careers. They both went pro for different teams in 2008, and during the offseasons, still hung out together at home, playing tennis, basketball and just goofing off as normal pals – at least according to them. They claimed to be good buddies all along, but the pleasantries seem to have turned cold as their respective teams have met in the playoffs multiple times in recent years. Despite trading some barbs through the media, I’ll bet these two hometown kiddos are still pretty tight away from the rink, right? Right.
4 Shane Doan and Mike Fisher
After connecting at the IIHF World Hockey Championships in 2005 and again as Team Canada teammates in 2009 in Switzerland, Arizona Coyotes star forward Shane Doan and Mike Fisher of Nashville Predators fame share a conviction in their faith that has led to a deeper, spiritual bond off the ice. Through their strongly held beliefs, the pair have developed a close friendship by encouraging and supporting each other while thriving in a sport where religion isn’t exactly a common topic. By relating to each other’s mission both on the ice and beyond, they are not only strong leaders in their respective locker room but have both become pillars of genuine character that feed off each other despite playing for competing teams in the same conference.
3 Vladimir Tarasenko and Artemi Panarin
From the minute Russian Vladimir Tarasenko arrived in St. Louis to join the Blues in 2013, he was lobbying management to sign his good buddy and compatriot, Artemi Panarin, too. That’s what friends are for, right? In hindsight, the Blues wish they had listened to Tarasenko, because a couple years later, Panarin was a hot commodity in the NHL. Unfortunately for the longtime buds and former KHL and World Junior Championships teammates, they wouldn’t reunite as teammates in the U.S. Instead, the Chicago Blackhawks snatched up the undrafted Panarin in 2015, and he was an instant success for the Blues’ bitter division rival. While still close friends off the ice, Panarin and Tarasenko met in the 2016 playoffs when the Blues and Blackhawks hooked up in the Western Conference quarterfinals. Even though they were happy for each other’s success, they had to put their friendship on hold until the Blues eventually prevailed in seven games.
2 P.K. Subban and Steven Stamkos
These two are the epitome of friend or foe when it comes to the game of hockey. P.K. Subban and Steven Stamkos were teammates as kids when they took the Greater Toronto Hockey League by storm with the North York Canadiens novice AAA team. The then future NHL-ers were a one-two punch that helped their team win the 1999 league championship, and their companionship carried on into the NHL. But neither will hesitate to tell you that on separate teams, their buddy-buddy relationship takes a backseat when they meet each other on the ice. Case in point was when Stamkos’ Tampa Bay Lightning met Subban’s Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They battled hard against one another both as individuals and as key players on their respective teams. But as soon as the horn sounded on Game 6 when the Lightning eliminated the Canadiens, the pair were friends once again and shared a touching moment during the traditional post-elimination handshake at center ice.
1 Jeff Carter and Mike Richards
The Jeff Carter and Mike Richards story reads like a timeless Hollywood bromance with all the feels. They met when they were just 16-year-old kids and by the time they were 18 and playing on the same team, they became best friends for life. From that point on, they might as well have been connected at the hip. They were both drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2003, became roommates and played there together for six years, signing long-term contracts with plans to settle down in Philly and remain with each other in NHL perpetuity. But in 2011, they were savagely ripped apart when they were traded to separate teams, leaving gaping holes in their hearts as they longed for each other from opposite sides of the country. But like all good stories, there was a happy ending. After a miserable season in Columbus, Carter was traded again, this time to Los Angeles, where Richards was waiting in the wings, reigniting their long-burning friendship. And to put a cherry on top, the pair led the Kings to a most unlikely Stanley Cup championship in 2012. If that’s not an emotional fairytale ending, I don’t know what is.
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