In any sport, including hockey, you often hear people say 'you hate to play against him but love to have him on your team.'
Well you might be able to use that adage when describing Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse. Hate might be a bit strong but it was a healthy dislike, on the ice, that developed between the Erie Otter and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound during the OHL regular season and especially in the playoffs where they met on two different occasions.
"I was trying to make him as uncomfortable as possible," said Nurse.
Apparently, it worked.
"When I first came into the league," explained McDavid. "He would come at me."
When you hear both the Oilers forward and defenceman describe their rivalry from their junior days, it's hard to fathom how different their friendship is now. It started to change when both McDavid and Nurse represented Canada over the Christmas holidays.
"It was at the World Juniors where our friendship started to pan out," said Nurse. He went onto add, "it's where we became friends and got to a see a different side of each other".
That's because they were finally on the same side for Canada.
"We really didn't know each other," explained McDavid. "But at the World Juniors I got to know him and we built a friendship."
A friendship which was further added to when McDavid was drafted by the Oilers in 2015 and Nurse, in 2013, had already been chosen by Edmonton. From rivals, to friends to teammates and now this season roommates.
"It was shortly after the trade (Hall for Larsson) that he sent me a text," is how Nurse put it. "We basically just had a discussion and decided to get a place together in Edmonton." This past summer McDavid saw not just one (Hall) but two (Luke Gazdic) roommates depart the city so it was onward and forward with his living arrangements.
"We've spent a lot of time together and I'm very close to Darnell," said the captain.
Two kids (young men) playing in the NHL and living together the way you would expect a 20 year old and 22 year old to run their household.
"Neither of us really cook," laughed Nurse. "I'll do a little more than him but not much."
While the d-man can lay claim to ownership of the kitchen, it's the centreman who owns the title as captain video.
"We play everything..NBA 2K, FIFA soccer and he is the champion," joked Nurse.
While there's a lot of fun and games between the two there are more serious moments that come with serious injuries. Last season it was McDavid and his broken collarbone. He often commented on the help and guidance he received from Hall and Gazdic. This season, it was Nurse who suffered the serious lower body injury. McDavid missed 37 games. Nurse missed 35.
"You never want a teammate or a friend to go through what he did," explained McDavid. "I understood some of the ways he was thinking and feeling and so I just gave him a little advice."
It is a budding friendship that appears to be growing as fast as the Oilers success. Two hockey players who now are enormous building blocks for Edmonton's future. Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse have come a long way and have a lot further to go as teammates and friends who are, literally and figuratively, living the NHL dream.