MONTREAL - Eric Desjardins and Pierre Turgeon grew up playing together and now they have gone into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Hall of Fame at the same time.
Desjardins and Turgeon, both inducted Wednesday at the league's Hall of Fame and awards ceremonies at a downtown hotel, are from Rouyn-Noranda in northwestern Quebec, a mining city of about 40,000 that has sent nearly 30 players to the NHL over the years.
In the early 1990s, they were among five from Rouyn-Noranda in the league at the same time, including Turgeon's older brother Sylvain, forward Stephane Matteau and goaltender Andre Racicot.
"We played minor hockey together and we also played against one another," said Desjardins, who later became a teammate of Turgeon's with the Granby Bisons of the QMJHL.
"It's pretty amazing for a small town. It tells you something about how much the people there are passionate about hockey. When we step onto ice, it's all about passion - realizing we have a chance to get to our dream of playing in the NHL."
Turgeon, who lives in Denver, the last stop on his 19-year NHL career, did not attend the induction due to family commitments.
Also inducted were Michel Deziel, a star with Sorel in the 1970s, and former coach Orval Tessier.
Desjardins hung up the skates at the end of last season with Philadelphia. He now lives in Blainville, Que., in the suburbs north of Montreal, where he runs hockey schools and clinics.
Fewer players come out of the mining and logging towns of the north than in previous decades, largely because most of the modern hockey schools and skill development programs are based in cities.
"Now, kids have so many things they can do in the house," added Desjardins. "For us it was easy.
"There was ice everywhere outside and that's what we would do - go outside and play hockey all the time. There were no specialists or programs back then. Now, all the big programs - power skating and stickhandling and all that - are all in the big cities.
"I'm involved in those programs now and to make money, you want to be where there's lot of players. It takes money to get in those programs. It's a shame that's what our sport is becoming, but that's a reality. Maybe I'll have to start smaller programs for the smaller cities and get more kids involved."
In the summer in Rouyn-Noranda there was baseball, including a team with Pierre Turgeon as its star pitcher that went to the Little League World Series. Desjardins had played on the same team the previous season, but was two months too old for it in their glory year.
"I was a lefty second baseman, if you can imagine that," he said. "You'd never see that in the majors."
Desjardins played two years in the QMJHL, collecting 105 points in 128 games. He was named the league's top defenceman and a first-team all-star in 1988, when he also won gold with the Canadian team in his first of two world junior championships appearances.
He was drafted in the second round by Montreal in 1987 and won a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1993, but was traded to Philadelphia two years later.
Turgeon piled up 268 points in 128 junior games and was picked first overall by Buffalo in 1987. He went on to post 1,327 points, including 515 goals, in 1,294 NHL games.
Deziel, a Buffalo draft pick, played four seasons with Sorel, amassing 457 points in 241 games. He played on the Eperviers' big line with star centre Pierre Larouche and Jacques Cossette that set a league record with a total of 692 points in a single season in 1973-74.
Tessier coached eight seasons in the QMJHL, averaging 40 wins per season.
In his rookie campaign in 1972 he took the Cornwall Royals to a Memorial Cup. He also won a league championship with Quebec and later coached Chicoutimi before jumping to Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League, which he took to a Memorial Cup final in 1981.
The Cornwall native is mostly remembered for a line he uttered while coaching the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1983 Campbell (Western) Conference finals. After falling behind 2-0 to the Edmonton Oilers, Tessier suggested his team needed "20 heart transplants," which was not appreciated by his players.
Still, he coached into the 1984-85 season before he was replaced by Bob Pulford.
"When I left Chicago I was not bitter, I was disappointed because half my team was injured," said the 74-year-old Tessier. "We didn't have a left wing.
"We lost Al Secord and Darryl Sutter and so forth, and we lost Tom Lysiak to a 20-game suspension. But you get hired to get fired. I went back to junior where I started."
He wasn't out of the NHL long, as the Quebec Nordiques came calling with an offer of a scouting job. He remained with the Quebec/Colorado franchise until the Avalanche's 2001 Stanley Cup triumph, then retired.
"This is sort of the icing on the cake for me," he said. "I'm very proud to have this honour.
"I spent a lot of time in this league and really enjoyed myself."