TORONTO -- Adam Graves was a junior instructor at the Seneca College Hockey School in Toronto's North York district, a teenager just trying to get on the ice as often as he could, to help teach the game he loves to the kids who reminded him of himself.
One of his students was a prodigy; big and growing bigger, physical with soft hands, a future star. His name was Eric Lindros. Graves was an immediate fan of the kid who grew up to be one of the greatest to play the game, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame's Class of 2016.
"I've known Eric since he was a kid," Graves said before playing with Lindros in the Hall of Fame Legends Classic on Nov. 13. "I've got him by about five years. I remember him coming in as one of the campers and befriending him then. That's three decades ago."
Three decades later, the teacher and the student, now close friends and former NHL players who share a passion for volunteerism and for working with children, shared space on a float in the 2016 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade through the streets of New York City on Thursday.
"It's fantastic," Graves said. "I know I'm not going to get any sun because he's so big. I'll just be in his shadow."
The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers will play in the 2016 Discover NHL Thanksgiving Showdown at Wells Fargo Center on Friday (1 p.m. ET; NBC, NHL.TV). Graves and Lindros each played for the Rangers, and Lindros played for the Flyers.
Video: NHL Tonight: The Dominance of Eric Lindros
"We're thankful," Lindros said. "Whether it's American Thanksgiving or Canadian Thanksgiving, anytime you have those special days, it's a great time to reflect and be thankful. We certainly are."
They are for many reasons, including their friendship, which was born in the cold North York rink more than 30 years ago.
Graves said he immediately gravitated toward Lindros because of his talent and his demeanor.
"I just remember knowing he was a special player, but certainly he was just a good kid," Graves said. "We're both older now, so I can't look at him like he's a kid. No one can look at him like he's a kid. He's so big you look up to him. But I liked him as a kid."
Lindros has fond memories of the Seneca College Hockey School and of Graves serving as an instructor.
"Adam is a terrific teacher," Lindros said. "He has so much time and passion and compassion for learning. He's a great person to learn from. Great guy."
Graves respected Lindros so much that when he was young player for the Detroit Red Wings early in the 1989-90 season, he'd occasionally go watch Lindros playing Junior A hockey for Detroit Compuware.
"I didn't know that he came to watch," Lindros said, flattered to hear the news.
Lindros played 14 games for Compuware. He had 52 points.
"It was out of respect," said Graves, who was traded to the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 2, 1989. "I was always a fan of the way he played."
Graves and Lindros eventually played together for Canada in the 1993 IIHF World Championship and the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. But they were most known for playing against each other in the heated Rangers-Flyers rivalry in the 1990s.
Video: Eric Lindros discusses Legion of Doom line
Lindros and the Flyers eliminated the Rangers from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 1995 (4-0) and 1997 (4-1).
Graves went to the San Jose Sharks when Lindros joined the Rangers for the 2001-02 season.
"It wasn't a lot of fun playing against Big E," Graves said. "If you asked anyone that played with him, he probably would have been in the Hall of Fame a couple of years ago. But if you asked anyone who played against him, he probably would have been in a real long time ago because he was so good and so tough."
Graves didn't teach Lindros physicality or how to be tough when he had him in his group at the Seneca College Hockey School, but he clearly had an impact on a kid who would eventually become a game-changing force in the League and a Hall of Famer.
"At least I didn't screw him up," Graves said, laughing.