Matt Bartkowski was thrown right into the mix of one of hockey's fiercest rivalries when the Bruins' rookie defenseman played his first preseason game in Montreal last week.
But intense rivalries are nothing new to Bartkowski, who spent the past two seasons playing for Ohio State. That could have led to some awkward moments with fellow rookie defenseman Steve Kamper, who turned pro after four years at the University of Michigan.
Kampfer was among the final cuts the team made on Wednesday, while Bartkowski was one of the 25 players the team took on its trip to Europe. But Bartkowski wasn't reveling in beating out his old college rival for a spot, as the pair had put aside past differences to form an unexpected bond in camp.
"We've gotten to be pretty good buddies throughout camp," said Bartkowski. "I wish he could be here, but at the same time it's a business. It's a job, so I'm happy I'm here. But it was great to be able to play with and be friends with a Michigan guy."
That may sound like heresy to Big Ten folks, but the CCHA rivalry on the ice between the schools isn't quite as intense as hatred on the gridiron.
"It's nuts," said Bartkowski of the annual football clash. "They shut down the streets. They have sharpshooters on the roofs making sure nobody is assaulting the players or anything. The school goes from like 50,000 people to a million with the tailgate all over the city. It's insane. It's awesome. There's nothing like it."
The hockey clashes don't approach that level of animosity, but there's still plenty on the line when the Ohio State and Michigan hockey clubs meet.
"It's not as big as the football [rivalry] just because not everybody knows about it," said Bartkowski. "But for the players it's just as big.
"It is a little different in hockey though," added Bartkowski. "Their bigger rival is probably Michigan State and Miami [Ohio] is probably on the same level if not a little bigger for us. But the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is definitely there."
Kampfer agreed. "I wouldn't say that it's that big," he said. "It's a rivalry, but at the same time Michigan's biggest rivalries are Michigan State and Miami."
And Kamper admitted getting along with a Michigan State player would be a bigger challenge than finding common ground with Bartkowski. "It would be a lot harder if a Spartan was here than a Buckeye," said Kampfer.
That will change for at least one weekend every year, when even the hockey players get caught up in the football showdown. That takes places this year in Columbus on Nov. 27, but other than that day, Kampfer and Bartkowski will get along just fine.
"We've actually hit it off pretty well," said Kampfer. "We played against each other our whole lives, so we've known each other that way. I think once November comes around we'll start giving it to each other a little more, once football season starts. But we don't butt heads too much. We actually kind of enjoy it because we're both here to make each other get better and make a push to do the same thing."