The battle is over. The bad blood is left on the ice for now.
It’s still the regular season. The animosity of the playoffs changes everything, but they will be forever brothers.
There are no greetings during the playoffs only when the series ends.
Former teammates and lifelong friends, the lines have been drawn, but the hockey memories never end. What happens after the game behind the scenes is truly unique.
The dressing rooms empty, the therapists and equipment managers are scurrying around retrieving players for the one or two interview requests, while the “Black Aces” or healthy scratches are pitching in to pack the bus.
Post game rituals are as tactically and strategically planned as any pregame that I have ever witnessed.
It’s a well-oiled machine.
Everyone has a role, everyone as a job, to get on road to go home. One team is always upbeat, the other upset.
The fine line between winning and losing is known all to well.
Family, friends and former and current billet families are waiting anxiously behind barriers pleading with security guards to make sure their son knows they are waiting.
By this time the text messages are flying back and forth.
The witty pregame banter on group chats or private messages between friends, opponents and the 60-minute enemies gives way to temporary bragging rights.
A Fly On the Wall
Over the past five years of covering the QMJHL, I have always been fascinated with post game handshakes and hugs.
These former teammates, friends, but now more than ever brothers have so much in common, but the bond formed between these old friends and teammates truly transcends the game.
As an analyst and writer, I’m a fly on the wall after games. I have access to go behind the scenes, but it’s always been awkward for me.
I’m there for the post-game interview and that’s it.
Sure I say hello to players, coaches, equipment managers and therapists I know. I’m not there for that story, I’m there for the interview and try to stay out of the way.
Time and time again, the greetings from former teammates and lifelong friends intrigue me.
The personal side of the game and hockey culture is very seldom discussed especially between players and friends that have just gone to battle.
These young players deserve five to ten minutes alone to talk about their current journey and past glory, free from preying eyes of the media.
The storylines are endless, but that’s not the time or place.
You see behind the scenes every one has a job, and I’m just there trying to do mine.
A Moment In Time
The only pictures I have ever taken between brothers were a few of the Wildcats greeting old teammate Charles-Antoine Lavallee when the Cataractes played the Cats during the Wildcats Mother’s weekend.
It was Lavallee’s first time back since being traded early during the Trade Period.
When Olivier Rodrigue came over to greet his former goalie partner I felt compelled to capture that moment in time.
There’s such an unique competitive bond between goaltending tandems. That picture is the only one of its kind that I have ever made public.
Not much had to be said in that tweet.
You see the business side of the game has a way of dictating these special and unique greetings.
The common battles fought along side former Q teammates and subsequent trades that split them up were often out of their control, it’s part of the game, it’s all business.
The handshakes and hugs behind the scenes show an unparalleled side of the game. Shared experiences during minor hockey days live on. The shared tales of the field of battle and certain plays and sequences are discussed, laughed at or argued over.
The game is over, but the bond will never be broken between brothers.
Some of the most meaningful interactions behind the scenes are the hugs with former team personnel and the coaching staff.
That bond is different, but the hugs and handshakes say it all.
The equipment managers and therapists do all their work behind the scenes.
All of the players know how massive their impact can be. They are part of the brotherhood and sisterhood as well.
By this time my job is done, the post game interviews have ended.
The work is never done. The bus is loaded and now it’s all about family and friends. The brothers say goodbye for now, until next time. The battle is over and the bad blood left behind. The alliances always end when the puck is dropped.
Brothers forever, until the end.
The game connects us all. The best stories have yet to be written and may never be told.