SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – They started their hockey careers playing against each other, quickly became friends and soon linemates. Now they are about to meet for the first time in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) playoffs.
Carson MacKinnon is a third-year forward with the Rimouski Oceanic while Jeremy McKenna is in Year 2 with the Moncton Wildcats. Both grew up in Summerside.
“It was a friendship right away,” McKenna explained. “We hit it off really well and we’ve been best friends ever since.”
“It’s definitely going to be a little weird playing him in playoffs, but it’s obviously exciting,” MacKinnon added. “Growing up . . . we always had that competitive edge against each other, no matter if it was mini sticks, baseball, road hockey, NHL, anything.”
McKenna started playing hockey in Charlottetown while MacKinnon was in Summerside. They joined forces on a P.E.I. Riptide squad in their first season of atom hockey. When McKenna’s family moved to the Prince County city in 2005, the two reunited and became linemates for the rest of their minor hockey career, which included being part of Team P.E.I. at the 2015 Canada Games in Prince George, B.C., and two seasons at Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask.
“It was great to have a teammate and a close friend like him to go out west (with),” McKenna said.
The two have played each other a handful of times during the QMJHL regular season, but this series will be different.
“The stakes are higher,” said McKenna. “We’re not going to think too much about the friendship during the playoffs here. It’s going to be about the teams, and we’ll catchup after the series.”
The two swapped a couple of text messages after the series was set Saturday night.
“See you on the ice. What happens on the ice, stays on the ice,” MacKinnon said was essentially his message. “We sent that good luck text to each other, but starting now, we’re not going to have too much contact with each other.”
The series begins in Rimouski, Que., with games Friday and Saturday before moving to Moncton for contests Tuesday and Wednesday.
MacKinnon said there was a special bond between himself, McKenna and linemate Brodie MacArthur where they knew where the other two were on the ice at all times. It gives MacKinnon a sense of the player he could be matched up against during the post-season series.
“I definitely know from experience he is a dangerous player, so you can’t give him the space that he wants,” MacKinnon said.