Last summer when Coach Gary Graham asked what he thought of Wichita defenseman Dan Milan, team captain Jamie Schaafsma simply laughed. The twist that he might influence whether Milan signed with Fort Wayne was delicious.
"We hated each other," Schaafsma said. "There was just a lot of back and forth all the time. He was a warrior and he battled, and I battled, and we knew what we were getting into every night against each other."
When Schaafsma was playing for Allen in the Central Hockey League and then the ECHL, Milan was the top defenseman for first Brampton and then Wichita, which meant the two matched up all the time when their teams often playing 20 times a season. That's a lot of chances to build up hate through incidents, bad blood and facewashes. Maybe that's even understating things a bit. Milan said things were always on the borderline of getting very bad.
"I think it was safe to say that we were actually enemies on the ice," Milan said. "He almost cross checked my teeth out. I play my game and he plays hard and things escalate when you slash each other a thousand times. It was like planets colliding."
Think that's hyperbole?
"It was a nightmare," Schaafsma said. "It was a war every night between me and him. We had a lot of stick wars. I crosschecked him in the neck one time. He probably slashed me about 50 times in the back of the leg."
So, of course, Schaafsma told Graham to sign Milan and soon as possible. At the very least, they wouldn't have to play against each other again, which might save both players some grief and bruises.
After signing, Milan tentatively reached out to Schaafsma on Twitter, and the relationship thawed a little before they reported to training camp. Then they found out their lockers were located next to each other, almost like a sick practical joke by Komets equipment manager Joe Franke who had no idea about their familiarity.
"We got to know each other real well," Milan said. "I've always had respect for him and every team he's been a part of has been successful."
Now the duo can laugh about their past, but they also know if one of them gets traded or signs somewhere else, the rivalry will be on once again. Before that, they'll both try to lead the Komets through the current playoffs, including tonight's Game 3 in Quad City.
"I wasn't sure if our battles would carry over into practice or not," Schaafsma said with a grin. "Now looking back at it, it was a lot of fun. You respect those guys that you battled the hardest against. They give it their all, and you want guys like that on your team. I'm glad he's on our team now. He's a big piece of the puzzle here."
For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring, at his blog tailingthekomets.com and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.