A year ago, they were all about the Detroit Red Wings.
Bill Peters was an assistant coach for the Wings on Mike Babcock's staff, working for a man and coach he has long admired.
Andrej Nestrasil was a forward in the Wings organization, playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American Hockey League and looking to work his way up to the Wings.
With that in mind, the Carolina Hurricanes' game Sunday against the Red Wings at PNC Arena offers differing emotions.
Peters used his three years with the Wings as a springboard to his first NHL head coaching job, coming to Carolina in June to replace the fired Kirk Muller. Nestrasil did make the Wings roster this year, making his NHL debut and playing 13 games before being placed on waivers last month by Detroit and being claimed by the Canes.
"It's going to be a really weird day," Nestrasil said, smiling.
Peters and Babcock have a long hockey relationship and have formed a deep friendship. Peters played for Babcock at Red Deer College in Alberta. He coached with Babcock in the Western Hockey League with the Spokane Chiefs, then later joined him again with the Red Wings.
While Peters is his own man in many ways, he's quick to say much of Babcock's coaching style and approach did rub off on him.
"He's a hard-working guy and very thorough guy, a detail guy," Peters said. "He leads by example and we try to do that as a coaching staff here, too. We try to work hard and we want to make sure we're organized so our team can be organized. We want to be a hard-working team.
"I remember when I was coaching major junior hockey and he was in the (NHL) and our team wasn't playing very well. The conversation ended with him saying, 'Are you the hardest-working team in the league?' I said no and he asked who was. I rattled off four or five teams. He said, 'Until you're the hardest-working team in the league don't worry about calling me back, because you've got to get that work ethic under control.' After that, the harder we worked it seemed like the luckier we got."
Peters now has his own NHL team to coach but said he stays in constant contact with Babcock. Some of it is about hockey, but not all.
"Especially if we were to play a team from the West and they have that same team five days later, there may be a conversation there," Peters said.
Peters noted Babcock's wife and daughter recently were in the Triangle for a soccer tournament. By chance, Peters' wife and daughter also were there.
"So there's the real world," Peters said. "He's got a great young son, Michael, who's the captain of the Fargo Force in the USHL, so I want to check up on Michael. There's just numerous things to talk about other than our NHL teams, but obviously the conversation typically gets to NHL hockey."
Peters smiled when asked if it will be awkward, perhaps uncomfortable, on Sunday looking down and seeing Babcock behind the Detroit bench.
"I won't look down," he joked.
When the Red Wings last came to PNC Arena, it was for the Hurricanes' 2013-2014 season opener. The Wings rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime and won 3-2.
"Stephen Weiss scored the winner," Peters said. "We tied it up late, six on five, and then 'Weisser' scored in OT. Those things stick out in your mind."
As will coaching against his old friend and mentor.
"Time will tell," Peters said. "It's going to be an exiting day to play Detroit and coach against 'Babs,' but I'll be focused on what we have to do in that game and getting the two points."
Nestrasil, 23, was a third-round draft pick by the Red Wings in 2009 and spent time with the Toledo Walleye of the East Coast Hockey League before going to the AHL Griffins. The Czech was in the Wings' training camp in September, survived the cuts and suddenly found himself on the NHL roster.
"I didn't know I would play my first game until that day, so I wasn't that nervous or anything," he said.
That was Oct. 9, against the Boston Bruins at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Nestrasil started on a line with Gustav Nyquist and Darren Helm, played almost 13 minutes and had three hits in the Wings' 2-1 victory.
But the practices and the off-ice time in Detroit, Nestrasil said, were just as meaningful.
"Watching guys like Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall, it's amazing," Nestrasil said. "You realize if you want to play at the highest level and be a big part of the team you've got to show up every day and work to make sure you're the best every night. That's the whole philosophy of Detroit: you've got to be an everyday'er. It becomes a habit."
When he looks across the ice Sunday Nestrasil will see Tomas Tatar, who became a good friend. Goalie Petr Mrazek, he said, was his roommate on the road.
"I really like these guys," Nestrasil said. "But that's the job, you know. I have to put it behind me and not think about it during the game. Get out there and compete as hard as I can because it would be really sweet if we could beat them."
For player and coach.