John Tortorella and Peter Laviolette each grew up in Massachusetts, so they have a lot in common.
Among them is the fact that they are the winningest U.S.-born coaches in NHL history. Tortorella leads with 333 wins, with Laviolette close behind with 319.
Both also have won the Stanley Cups and have great experience coaching for USA Hockey internationally -- Laviolette coached the U.S. at the 2006 Olympics, while Tortorella was an assistant coach under Ron Wilson at the 2010 Games.
"I have a good relationship with Torts," Laviolette told NHL.com. "We've worked some international teams for the U.S. in the past and we both have similar backgrounds with the way we moved up the coaching ranks. I have a lot of respect for him as a coach, but to be honest, I hadn't thought about the coaching matchup much when you start talking about the Winter Classic."
Tortorella, 53, was raised in Boston, about 25 miles northeast of Franklin, where Laviolette, 46, was learning the ropes. They've each raised the Stanley Cup and now will oppose each other in one of the NHL's premier events of the regular season.
On Jan. 2, 2012, they'll be working behind the benches at Citizens Bank Park in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, when Tortorella's New York Rangers travel to the City of Brotherly Love to battle Laviolette's Philadelphia Flyers.
"Yeah, the intensity heightens with these two teams … they're just down the street and it's been a pretty bitter rivalry going on," Tortorella said. "I'll leave it at that."
Tortorella began his NHL coaching career as an assistant with the Buffalo Sabres in 1989, and after serving four games as an interim coach with the Rangers during the 1999-2000 season, he got his first full-time head coaching opportunity with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2001. He led the Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004, and went 239-222-36-38 in six seasons in Tampa.
He took over the Rangers in February 2009, replacing Tom Renney with only 21 games remaining in the regular season.
"He tries to get maximum effort out of his players," Rangers forward Marian Gaborik told NHL.com. "I'm in my third year playing for him and hopefully we'll have a good year. He demands a lot from his players, but he also knows he can get that, so that's a good thing."
Callahan, named the Rangers captain earlier this summer, considers his coach as passionate as they come.
"I think what you see is what you get with him," Callahan said. "He's an emotional coach and he's passionate, and for those reasons that's why he's such a good coach. Fans will appreciate him even more when they see how passionate and how much he cares about the game (during HBO's '24/7' series leading up to the game)."
When asked how he felt about facing Laviolette in the Winter Classic, Tortorella preferred to keep the focus on the players.
"This game isn't about us," Tortorella said. "I don't even think about it that way. I think of two organizations that have an opportunity to play in this game, and as I've always said, it's about the players … I think it's great for them. I'm happy we're going to be part of it. Even though our plane might be crowded with cameramen, it'll be different along the way, but our guys are really excited about it all and being involved in all the festivities."
Philadelphia is Laviolette's third stop as an NHL coach, following stints with the New York Islanders and Carolina Hurricanes. In 2005-06, he led the Hurricanes to franchise regular-season records in wins (52) and points (112), and capped the season by helping the club win its first Stanley Cup.
"Torts has done a great job with his teams and with the Rangers and I'm sure it'll be a terrific game," Laviolette said. "It'll certainly be a competitive game because the Flyers and Rangers typically are and we're looking forward to it."