By Chris Umpierre
There’s a lot of history behind that giggle.
Cameron, 39, and Bednar, 36, were roommates when they played for the 1993-94 ECHL Huntington (W.Va.) Blizzard. Cameron introduced Bednar to Bednar’s wife during that season and the men have remained friends through the years.
Cameron and his wife, Heather, traveled to South Carolina to have Thanksgiving Day dinner with Bednar’s family two years ago. Bednar and his wife repaid the favor last year.
Now, Cameron and Bednar are the central figures in one of the ECHL’s biggest rivalries. South Carolina is Florida’s nearest opponent. The teams have met in the playoffs three times.
“It’s a small world, isn’t it?” said Cameron, in his first season as Florida’s coach.
Cameron and Bednar roomed together when they showed up for their first professional training camp with the Greensboro Monarchs. But after a preseason game, Greensboro traded Cameron, Bednar and three other players to Huntington in exchange for two players.
Huntington, an expansion franchise, had an awful season. The club finished with the league’s worst record, 14-49-5.
Bednar said his relationship with Cameron kept him sane during that miserable season, but it wasn’t without strife.
“(Bednar and I) used to fight quite regularly on the ice,” said Cameron, who is four inches shorter than the 6-foot-3 Bednar. “We were so competitive. And he beat me up most of the time because he was a better fighter.”
After one of those physical practices, Cameron and Bednar went to a restaurant for chicken wings and beer.
“Jared’s future wife was our waitress,” Cameron said. “I saw that he really liked her so I put the word in and got them together.”
Bednar and Susan have been married for nine years. They have two children – an 8-year-old boy named Kruz and a 3-year-old girl named Savega.
Would Bednar have dated Susan without Cameron’s help?
“Probably not,” Bednar said with a laugh. “(Cameron’s) a good roommate.”
The former roommates have taken similar paths since they stopped playing.
Cameron was an assistant for three seasons before being promoted to head coach for the first time in 2002. Bednar spent five seasons as South Carolina’s assistant before being elevated to bench boss in 2007.
Bednar, who won a team-record 47 games last season en route to leading the Stingrays to the American Conference Finals, has his teams play the same way he did.
“He was very tough,” Cameron said about Bednar, who had a nine-year pro career. “He could fight. Very smooth. Good vision.”
Cameron isn’t so loquacious about his playing career. Cameron played five seasons – two in the ECHL – as a forward.
“I was a plumber,” Cameron said.
That’s hockey lingo for a player who does the little things: charge the net, stick up for teammates, kill penalties, etc.
Cameron and Bednar will be thinking about their playing days Friday.
They might acknowledge each other with a smile. But there won’t be time to chat. There’s a game to be won.