By Chris Umpierre
ESTERO, Fla. – They grew up in the same Canadian town, chasing the same dream.
As up-and-coming hockey prospects, Ian Forbes and Lance Galbraith ran into each other almost every weekend growing up in Brampton, Ontario. They quickly became good friends.
Forbes and Galbraith played on different teams in the Ontario Hockey League from 1997-2000 but their friendship remained strong. They called each other at least once a week.
Forbes, 23, and Galbraith, 24, still talk, but the conversations these days are a little different.
Forbes’ Florida Everblades are playing Galbraith’s Idaho Steelheads in the ECHL Kelly Cup Finals.
Galbraith said: “I consider Forbsey a very good friend, a close friend. A friend of the family. Somebody I put a lot of trust in.
“I’m excited to see he’s doing so well.”
Forbes said: “He’s a great friend of mine.”
During a telephone call at the beginning of the season, Forbes and Galbraith joked about the possibility of playing each other in the Finals.
The odds of it happening were long — the ECHL is a 31-team league that spans the United States — but Galbraith was adamant about the chance.
“He immediately felt they had a pretty good team to make it,” Forbes recalled. “I was telling him how good we are and he said, ‘Well, if you guys are as good as you say you are, we’ll be seeing you in the Finals.’
“So he predicted this months ago.”
Although they’re tight, both say their friendship goes out the window when they step on the ice.
“Off the ice, he’s a great friend of mine but on the ice, he’s not the style of player to be friends with,” Forbes said.
The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Forbes paused and flashed a sly grin.
“Neither am I,” he added.
Despite their physical differences — Galbraith is 5-10 — they’re both physical, rugged players.
That’s easy to see in Forbes, who because of his size is an intimidating presence. It’s harder to see in the shorter Galbraith. But Forbes knows better.
The Idaho left winger racked up 353 penalty minutes, third most in the league, during the regular season.
“He fights a lot,” Forbes said. “He likes to get under the skin of guys.”
The duo inevitably has and will run into each other during the best-of-7 Finals series. With the title up for grabs, neither is holding anything back.
“We’ve played a lot before and we’ll take runs at each other,” Forbes said. “He’s not afraid to stick his stick in there and I’m not afraid to give him a punch or take a punch.”
Galbraith has a similar message for his buddy.
“He better be coming as hard as I’m coming,” Galbraith said. “We’re friends off the ice but we’re playing for a title here.”