If anyone wants to know the definition of brotherhood, they should have been a part of the Kootenay Ice Hot Stove Dinner or Alumni Golf Tournament this past weekend.
Over two dozen former players and staff descended on Cranbrook over the last few days to celebrate the early championship success of the Ice franchise in 2000 and 2002.
As I looked around the room at the Hot Stove Dinner at the Prestige Inn on Thursday, or around the clubhouse at the Cranbrook Golf Course on Friday, I could see that these players-some of whom haven't seen each other in years-reconnected quicker than a snap of the fingers.
These guys played for each other, fought for each other, bled for each other and overcame adversity together to put the newly-relocated Ice franchise on the map and helped lay the foundation for a successful winning tradition.
The bond forged between teammates through those experiences never breaks.
The Hot Stove Dinner was a reunion for former players such as Jason Jaffray, Jarret Stoll, Craig Weller, Gerard Dicaire, Curtis Fransoo, B.J. Boxma, Dan Blackburn, Travis Featherstone, Colin Sinclair?the list goes on.
Even Adam Cracknell-who wasn't on either of those two championship teams-crashed the party, bringing along some St. Louis Blues swag for silent auction prizes.
Alumni staff was present such as former general manager Bob Tory, who now does the same job with the Tri-City Americans, and Roy Stasiuk, the former scout who has graduated into the NHL and does the same job with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
While the event was special for the players that got a chance to reconnect with each other, it was also special for me as well, as it triggered memories of watching the same guys play when I was a young kid.
I remember going to hockey games with my dad at the old Memorial Arena when the Ice had to wade through the crowd to get to and from their dressing room up at the top of the stands in the corner of the rink.
I remember being electrified when the goal lamp lit after a Kootenay Ice goal as the crowd blew the roof off with a roar of celebration.
I remember leaning forward on the bench while following the players transition from zone to zone, feeling like I could fall from the stands right out onto the ice because I was so close to the action.
I remember the feeling of euphoria that enveloped the city during those two championship years as everyone rallied around the team and cheered them towards their first-then second-WHL title.
I enjoyed watching these players give everything they had while wearing an Ice uniform, and I equally enjoyed catching up with a few of them to see what they'd been up to since.
Some pursued a life in professional hockey-the career of Jarret Stoll being the obvious example-while others have hung their skates up and retired from the game.
Richard Hamula is an accountant in Edmonton, Wade Burt teaches in the same city, Dan Blackburn works in the foreclosure business in Texas, Mike Green works in the oil and gas industry in Calgary and Curtis Fransoo is back home farming in Saskatchewan.
Some are still giving the game a go in minor leagues in North America, while others are playing professionally in Europe.
However, all the time and distance apart between everyone seemed meaningless.
Some of the players were publicly ribbed during the Hot Stove Dinner, as the guys teased Jason Jaffray over having a "live-in wife" while staying with his billet family. Jaffray dated, and eventually married, the daughter of his billet family, Michelle, a few years after graduating from major-junior hockey, and they currently have two young children.
Other stories came out over team hijinks and parties-some suitable for print, others not so much-while all players recalled how Ryan McGill, the former (now current) head coach seemed to get all the dirt on the trouble they'd get into, which usually translated into some kind of disciplinary action.
There were serious moments, as Stasiuk held a moment of silence for Ed Chynoweth and Chris Chubb. Ed Chynoweth, the father of Jeff Chynoweth, general manager and president of the club, was a titan in developing major-junior hockey in Canada who passed away in 2008, while Chubb, a former Ice defenseman who was a part of the 2000 championship team, died in a car accident five years ago in Alberta.
However, the most poignant comments of the Hot Stove Dinner came from the Stanley Cup champion Jarret Stoll, who said it was important to reach out to teammates if they needed a boost in life.
"Give them a call, or better yet, show up at their doorstep," Stoll urged.
I found that compelling because it can be applied anywhere, not just in the hockey world.
If you have a friend in need, talk to him or her.
If you have a relative who is struggling, go knock on their door.
The festivities concluded with the golf tournament on Friday that raised money for the Education Fund, which many alumni players had taken advantage of.
After 18 holes of golf, everyone converged at the clubhouse for a dinner and I was again struck by the camaraderie as players reconnected and reminisced over the good old days, which made me think of a Shakespearian quote from the play, Henry V:
"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers..."