Friendly rivals — for a couple of nights
Pats’ Steel, Mahura enjoy being part of Canada Russia Series alongside Warriors’ Howden and Gregor
up so it’s not too bad that way,” said Gregor. “It’s a little weird having them in (the Warriors’ room) … but that’s just how it is with a series like this. All these guys have ended up playing together, whether it’s U17s or U18s. We’re friends when we’re around the team. When things get back to normal, we’re back to battling it out.”
Howden, who’s from Oakbank, Man., joined Steel and Mahura this summer at Canada’s world junior development camp and exhibition tournament. They were previously teammates on the Canadian under-18 team that won gold at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka tournament.
“It’s a little different (sharing the Warriors’ room) but I’m buddies with Howdy and Gregs,” noted Steel. “We’ve known each other for a while. It’s not hostile or anything but come Friday I’m sure we’ll put it aside and play hockey.
“There’s definitely a (mutual) respect,” added the Pats’ captain. “You go out there and expect the guy to play you hard. When you get off the ice you say, ‘How’s it going?’ That’s a (common) thing in hockey.”
It’s no different for the men behind the bench. Regina’s John Paddock and Swift Current’s Manny Viveiros were assistant coaches under Moose Jaw’s Tim Hunter in the Canada-Russia Series. Their teams are battling each other for top spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
“We were sitting having coffee (Monday) morning in Moose Jaw and guys are looking: ‘What are those three guys doing sitting together?’ “Hunter recalled with a laugh. “It’s about giving our kids the best opportunity with the best coaching.
They’re real good coaches and great guys. We’ve had a lot of laughs in going through this.”
They won’t be laughing Friday — not with first place on the line. Regina (11-6-2) is two points behind the front-running Warriors (13-4-0), who’ve played two fewer games.
With the race tightening up, there’s no more room for pleasantries.
“Absolutely not,” added Mahura. “It’ll be right back to the war.”