Years ago, Dan Bylsma and Todd Reirden were teammates at Bowling Green playing for a young head coach named Jerry York.
On Friday, the now-legendary York – who has developed Boston College into a perennial powerhouse – will be playing his former program Bowling Green in the opening game of the Three Rivers Classic … in the arena where his former players are now coaches themselves for one of the NHL’s premiere teams.
|Dan Bylsma during his playing days at Bowling Green |
“I just think the whole thing is a pretty neat story,” said Bowling Green head coach Chris Bergeron.
“It's pretty exciting,” York agreed. "(Bowling Green is) a terrific hockey school. They love hockey and the area, I cut my teeth coaching out there. So a lot of good memories."
Those memories include coaching both Bylsma and Reirden each for four years, some of his last with the program. York had the future Penguins head coach from 1988-92 and the future Penguins assistant coach from 1990-94. Reirden’s senior season was York’s 15th and final at Bowling Green.
“I remember them just like it was yesterday,” York smiled of his former players. “We won a lot of games. They were good players. Danny was a big, strong power forward and Todd was a big, tall, lanky defenseman. They both made big impacts in my coaching career.
“Todd and Danny spent four years with me and those are formative years, 18 to 22. I think you really learn a lot about a young man at that age. Everything was very, very positive.
"Got a lot of players with the Penguins now, (including) (Chuck) Kobasew, (Brian) Dumoulin, (Brooks) Orpik, (Rob) Scuderi, and (Brian) Gibbons is up now. It's been fun watching a lot of our former players play for one of my former players.”
York’s former players and Bowling Green alums Bylsma and Reirden will definitely be having some fun with his other former players and their current ones in all the Boston College alums going into Friday’s 4:30 p.m. matchup
“It’s started already,” Bylsma said. “We had a meeting prior to the New York game (on Dec. 18) and we were asking some questions, and the BC guys didn’t fare too well on the answers. We started to already throw some barbs to the BC boys and we have a lot of them, so we have plenty of bantering going back and forth. We’ll see if there’s a bet on the game. If Bowling Green wins that first one, it might be higher stakes.”
|Todd Reirden during his playing days at Bowling Green |
All of that bantering epitomizes the lifelong bonds that are formed in college hockey, while helping the coaches continue to strengthen their relationships with the players in the Penguins locker room.
“A couple weeks ago Chris Kunitz and I were going back and forth with Ferris State and Bowling Green in a game,” Reirden said. “It’s fun. It’s a different way to relate to players. It’s something we always have fun with in our locker room. We try to always talk around the junior players because they’re jealous they didn’t go to college.
"It’s fun and awesome for the city of Pittsburgh to be able to have a tournament of this caliber and get teams like Boston College come in here. This is just phenomenal. For them to see the facility and be around Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas, what we have to offer here I think is great both for the community and for helping us down the road in acquiring some of these top-end players from some of these teams.”
That’s another reason why Bylsma and Reirden will be closely monitoring the Three Rivers Classic while they are on the road this weekend.
“We will be watching,” Bylsma said. “We may not be here in person, but we’ll have some of our scouts here watching these kids. It’s great exposure. It’s great exposure for the fans here in Pittsburgh with college hockey. They don’t see a ton of big-time college hockey games (but now) we’ve had the NCAA tournament, this tournament now in its second year. To see big-time schools like BC and Penn State come in here and for us to see these players, too, it’s not something we get to do very often.
“You mentioned Eric Hartzell here and doing it. BC is coming in and they have some big-time players there. The fans here will be able to get to see those players. The Gaudreau brothers at BC and a lot of the players they have, other players coming in here – Eddie Olcyzk’s son is coming in with Penn State. So there’s lots of players coming in that the fans don’t often get to see. They will have that chance here for the tournament.”