Carter Rigby and Mark MacMillan have been friends since MacMillans family moved to Penticton from Lloydminster, Alberta when Mark was playing bantam hockey.
They didn’t play minor hockey together as MacMillan is two years older, but they skated together during the summers and briefly played on the 2010-11 Penticton Vees.
“I always looked up to Mark and he was a great hockey player,” says Rigby, mentioning that MacMillan was a highly touted draft pick by the Montreal Canadiens.
Their friendship will be put on hold, however, for a few hours on Tuesday, Nov. 23 when Rigby’s Coyotes visit MacMillan’s Summerland Steam. Rigby, a former Steam assistant coach, is happy for his friend taking over the Steam bench and thinks the hire was a great idea.
“He’s a kid that knows the community well. His family is a big part of the community,” says Rigby, who played in the Western Hockey League for the Prince George Cougars, Kelowna Rockets and Swift Current Broncos. “Just having a younger guy that has played, a lot of the coaches at this level have been around for a long time, which is great to see. They are doing the right things. It’s also nice to get some youth involved and a new style of hockey. He is a local guy that has been to a level that everyone strives to get to and knows his stuff and will do a good job.”
When Rigby learned about MacMillan’s hiring, he didn’t check his calendar right away to see when they would play next, but called his friend the next morning and left a message.
“As soon as he texted me back, he says, ‘What do you want? What one of my players do you want?” laughs Rigby. “I said, ‘No, I just wanna chat.’”
MacMillan laughed when that was brought up.
“With Carter, you never know what he is up to,” says MacMillan. “We’ve chatted about the league and how it works. Carter has been a great resource and I’ve asked him about how the process works for reaching out to other teams. He has been a big help for me.”
MacMillan didn’t check his calendar immediately either, but was aware they are in the same division and that they play each other a few times.
“He’s got a heck of a team over there in Osoyoos,” says MacMillan. “I’m really excited to be behind the bench against him. I’ve known Carter for a long time. I’ve always kind of kept in touch with him. I’m not too sure what to expect, but I’m looking forward to it, it should be fun.
“If you asked both of us, we’d both prefer to put our skates on ourselves and go out and hit each other,” MacMillan jokes. “I guess we will just stare at each other on the benches.”
“It will be fun coaching against him. We do have a good relationship and chat all the time,” says Rigby, “it will definitely be fun. I’ve never had to coach against a guy I played with and know well like that. I might have to make sure the boys are geared up ready to go and buy them a good dinner after, if we win.”
There won’t be an extra motivational speech by MacMillan to his group, acknowledging the already existing rivalry, plus the fact where both teams are in the standings will be enough.
“I have really enjoyed coaching so far. It will be kind of funny looking over and seeing him there rather than somebody I don’t really know that well,” says MacMillan. “I wish him the best of luck and I hope we get the two points.”
Photos by Jen Jensen/Daniel Stenz