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It's not a rarity for junior hockey players to suit up against their hometown team. Many grow up in one region and then go on to play somewhere else. But to have it happen across two different leagues is unique....
Saint John Sea Dogs defenceman Nathan Beaulieu will take on the team he was very close to growing up Saturday when his QMJHL championship club takes on the OHL champion London Knights in Game Two of the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup. Beaulieu spent many hours with the Knights growing up while his father Jacques was an assistant coach under the Hunter brass in London. But he headed to the Quebec League with his dad when he ran the Sea Dogs. With now back-to-back Memorial Cup appearances and national media around, the younger Beaulieu admits he'd be rich if he had a dollar for every time somebody asked him about his relationship with the Knights.
"Yeah I would be for sure," said Beaulieu. "They were my team growing up with my dad coaching there. The Hunters are like family to me. (Saturday) is definitely a special game, it's really important to make a statement against them because they were my team growing up - but they're my rivals now."
Being the defending championships at the Memorial Cup comes with some pros and cons. They automatically enter with high expectations and a target on their back. But on the other hand, the event is not new to them. They know the routine, and the additional challenges that go into it. Beaulieu believes there are only minor differences as to what happens off the ice.
"We did it last year, so we're used to it. The rinks are spread out, last year (the practice rink) was just across the road," explained the Montreal Canadiens first round pick in 2011. "So this year it's a little different. But we've got that experience under our belt."
While the off-ice side of the Memorial Cup may be similar, it's a clean slate on the ice.
"It's a whole different animal though this year. There are three different teams that are really good hockey clubs. We like what we did last year but it's totally different this year, we have to approach it differently."
-Some may argue the Sea Dogs are receiving more favourable treatment when it comes to accommodations at this event. Their hotel is located right in Shawinigan. The London Knights and Edmonton Oil Kings are being housed in Trois Rivieres - about half hour away. Both coaches were asked about it during the pre-tournament press conference, but denied it was an issue.
-Centre Bionest is located just up the hill from the former home of the Cataractes, Jacques Plante Arena. Build in 1937, the Cataractes vacated it in 2008. The Oshawa Generals visited the old barn twice for interleague play in 2001 & 2002.
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