When Dave Pszenyczny and Dan Bremner were teammates for the Peoria Rivermen, they talked about their upbringing in hockey.
Pszenyczny revealed to Bremner he went to Northern High School in the town of Sarnia in Ontario, Canada, the same high school Bremner attended.
They never met during that time, despite being separated by two years in age.
“That’s the weirdest part,” Pszenyczny said. “We never crossed paths in the hallways.”
Life has come full circle for the former captains of the Rivermen.
It culminated by going head-to-head behind the bench last week in a three-game set between Bremner’s Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs and Pszenyczny’s Quad-City Storm.
While Bremner won two of the three games at the TaxSlayer Center, both have a ton of respect for each other in their first full year as head coaches.
“It was cool,” Bremner said.
A sense of that respect and professionalism was shown during Saturday’s series finale.
Roanoke’s Jesse Schwartz was sent off the ice after what Pszenyczny said was a display of motions and words being directed toward Q-C forward Al Graves.
While fans may have assumed the two coaches were yelling at each other, that wasn’t the case.
“He kind of looks at me, he was like, 'What happened?’ and I’m telling him and he’s like, 'Oh no that’s not good,’” Pszenyczny said. “It’s a respect thing. He’s like a brother to me.”
It’s one of the values the two have learned from their own coach.
Jean-Guy Trudel appointed Bremner as captain of Peoria from 2015-17 and then Pszenyczny donned the ‘C’ on the jersey in the 2017-18 season.
Both saw that assignment as fulfilling, and both said what Trudel has meant to them would be a long conversation.
“Take a bit of his passion, he treats every practice like he’s coaching in the NHL working for the Stanley Cup,” Bremner said. “His attention to detail, he’s very quick to make decisions. The list can go on, endless knowledge.”
Pszenyczny echoed similar remarks.
“He’s our mentor,” he said. “He gets you to fall in love with the game. The guy wins, it’s no secret. He’s very intelligent in the way that he sees the game.
“I’m not there and (Bremner) isn’t there, but I think that’s a good measuring stick.”
They both talked about drills used by Trudel that were successful, wondering if they would translate to their own team's success.
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At first, Pszenyczny said he wanted to run practice his own way. The tune changed as the season progressed.
“(Bremner) and I were talking the other day that when I first got into coaching, I never want to use (Trudel’s) drills,” Pszenyczny said. “(Bremner) looked at it the opposite way, saying ‘That’s all I know to coach’ and I was like ‘Yeah, I guess you’re right.’
“Slowly throughout the season, I’m like ‘Yeah, I’m going to start using this stuff.’”
Bremner got an early start in a head coaching role, taking a graduate assistant position at Ohio University in 2017 where he was under the tutelage of Sean Hogan. It ended a 13-year playing career with three professional teams, all in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Six months later, the 32-year old took charge of the Rail Yard Dawgs.
Roanoke had a record of 5-11-2 before Bremner turned it around and led them into the 2018 SPHL playoffs before eventually falling to Trudel and Peoria in a 2-0 first-round sweep.
“I always had a teaching mentality, I like seeing other players learn and get better,” Bremner said. “I feel like I can relate to the guys well. I did have some pieces and some structure, so I was able to roll with that.”
The Rail Yard Dawgs currently are in a tie for seventh place in the standings with 48 points as another playoff appearance is in sight.
It’s the opposite of what Pszenyczny is going through as a first-year head coach on a first-year team.
After ending a 17-year career in four different pro leagues, the Sterling Heights, Michigan native is experiencing a turbulent start to his coaching career. The Storm have just 14 wins and 32 points to sit in ninth place in the standings, currently out of the playoffs.
Unlike his former teammate, Pszenyczny didn’t have a cupboard full of talent. He’s had to wheel-and-deal to make Quad-City a team that fits his style.
It hasn’t gone unnoticed by Bremner.
“He’s done great,” he said. “It takes time. You can see as Dave went, there wasn’t a lot of changes to start the year, but as the year’s gone on, he’s made some great changes and you can see it out there.”
With how they went about themselves during their playing careers, Cody Dion isn’t surprised they went into coaching.
Dion played in Peoria with Bremner, his head coach, and Pszenyczny. He saw something special in both of them that knew would translate well to being behind the bench.
“Both had a very good hockey IQ and they both were knowledgeable about coaching,” Dion said. “They both discussed about what they would do as far as their coaching styles.
“It was inevitable that Dave and Dan were going to coach eventually, and it’s awesome that they got their start in the SPHL.”
As the season winds down, Bremner and Pszenyczny will always be intertwined with one another. Even if the careers aren’t spectacular as coaches, they both see themselves involved in the sport in some way.
“I think (Bremner) is going to go far,” Pszenyczny said. “At the same time, wherever you’re at in life, why would you want to settle? Gotta put in the work.”