Roman Hamrlik's eyes opened wide. He had just been told that Marc Bergevin was named the Montreal Canadiens' new general manager.
"No way. Are you kidding me, Old Bergy?" Hamrlik said with a sense of amazement. "He was my partner when I started playing in the league. I played with him in Tampa for a few years."
Hamrlik's still playing with the Washington Capitals, but his old defense partner moved on to management a while ago. Bergevin played 20 years in the NHL with eight different teams before signing on as a Chicago Blackhawks scout in 2005. He became director of pro scouting and then director of player personnel there before his promotion to assistant general manager last summer.
Now he's taking over as the 15th general manager of the most successful franchise in hockey history.
"The fast track," ex-Blackhawks forward Troy Brouwer quipped.
And perhaps an unexpected track given Bergevin's penchant for being something of a class clown as a player. In a Twitter post congratulating Bergevin, Brett Hull said his ex-teammate can't pull any practical jokes now.
Hamrlik compared him to the Caps' Jason Chimera.
"Funny guy. Really funny, likes to have fun in the locker room," Hamrlik said. "I think it's totally different now. When he played, he was [one of] the funny guys on the team and always have jokes around. A good teammate, nice to have him on the team. I learn good things from him, off the ice and on ice.
"I'm happy for him. It's good news. It looks like he learned a lot from assistant and when he was in the Blackhawks. Wow. I never thought that he would become GM of the Montreal."
Brouwer could see it a little more clearly in a different kind of relationship. When he was struggling his rookie season, Brouwer leaned on Bergevin, who made him feel more comfortable in Chicago.
"He did a good job with our young guys when we were in Chicago and developing them and scouting out guys and spending a lot of time on the road," Brouwer said. "He's got a good eye for those kinds of things. He brought quite a few guys into the Blackhawks organization."
That's not to say Bergevin lost his prankster ways even when he moved into the front office.
"Every team meal he has the one where he sticks the spoon through the teacup handle and pretends to fall and spill coffee all over you on your suit," Brouwer said. "Of course, there's nothing in it. He's just an idiot."
Bergevin's introductory press conference, which took place in French and English, featured the 45-year-old's humor. He talked about his playing career that made him seem nomadic.
"It was hard because my luggage was always a team behind," he said. "All the baggage [helped] me, [made] me who I was."
And helped Hamrlik become a better player, too. The 38-year-old recalled learning a trick move from Bergevin.
"He always had the trick one-on-one, put his stick between the forward's skate and they can't skate and beat you. Last five, 10 years you cant do that, so it doesn't help me much."
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