As the New York Islanders skated around their zone for pregame warm-ups on Sunday afternoon at Nassau Coliseum, Josh Bailey
glanced into enemy territory. Looking down the unfriendly ice occupied by division rival New Jersey, Bailey caught a glimpse of friend and junior teammate Adam Henrique. They exchanged nods, but that’s about as friendly as things would get before the final horn.
Bailey and Henrique played together for the Windsor Spitfires for two seasons from 2006-2008. In a league boasting a collection of 968 players this season, Bailey and Henrique are just one example of the small, tightly knit hockey community in which friendships are forged while navigating the waters of junior hockey.
“He lives in Windsor where we played junior,” Bailey said. “A couple times a summer we usually run into each other and pick right back up where we left off.”
Playing together in 2007-08, Bailey scored 96 points (29g/67a) in 67 games, while Henrique posted 44 (20g/24a) in 66. Bailey’s stellar season landed him on Long Island as a first round draft pick in 2008, while Henrique was selected in the third round by the Devils.
Henrique stayed in Windsor for two more seasons, topping out at 77 points (38g/39). He had a breakout campaign as an American Hockey League rookie with the Albany Devils the next year scoring 50 points (25g/25a) in 73 games. Now that each is a mainstay in the NHL, Henrique and Bailey can often be found chatting in the locker room hallway after games, but they check their friendship at the door to the ice when it’s time to play.
“I cheer for him for 76 games a year,” Bailey said. “The six that we play, we go head to head and battle. You want to keep that competitive edge and we are definitely both trying to beat each other out there.”
Henrique echoed the same sentiment and acknowledged that it does put more meaning into a game when he plays former teammates like Bailey.
“It’s exciting when you know someone on the other team you played with in junior,” the Devils rookie said. “It makes the game more fun, trying to get bragging rights after.”
With the season series tied at two games a piece, Bailey and Henrique have to dissect the game to find out who has the edge. Since they are both centers, faceoffs are a good head-to-head matchup.
“I think I’ve beaten him on faceoffs over our career so far,” Henrique joked. “But we never really match up lines against him.”
Henrique said he’ll talk to Bailey about the three-game set after the season, when the two meet up in the summer. There’s business to take care of on the ice, but on an off-night, they’ll be keeping tabs on each other and their other friends around the league.
“It’s pretty cool to see all the guys make it and have some success,” Henrique said. “It’s something pretty cool just to watch your friends out there.”