By Matt Nevala
Anchorage Daily News
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – In the first few shifts of Game 1, Alaska’s Kimbi Daniels kept looking at Trenton’s Leon Hayward (pictured) with one of those “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” glares.
Daniels couldn’t figure it out until he looked at Hayward’s bio in a packet of game notes. The fourth-year Titans forward grew up in Seattle, Wash., and that was the clue Daniels needed.
It turns out Hayward was a 13-year old stickboy in 1992 when Daniels, then 19, played briefly for the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds.
“I remembered him, I’m not sure he would remember me,” Hayward said. “He was in Seattle for only a short amount of time, but Kimbi was great to me.”
Daniels skated in 25 games for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers during the 1991-92 season. But when the players went on strike near the end of the year, Daniels made a short stop in Seattle to keep playing.
That’s when he first met Hayward, before seeing him again at the start of the National Conference finals. All of a sudden Daniels, 32, felt a whole lot older.
“It was bound to happen sooner or later,” Daniels said. “He was a good kid. He was so young. It’s nice to see he played at college (Northeastern University) for four years and now at the pro level.”
Daniels and Hayward haven’t done a lot of reminiscing during the series.
“I’ll talk to him when it’s over,” Hayward said.
Daniels said now that he knows who Hayward is that his on-ice moves may change.
“Maybe I’ll have to go a little easier on him,” Daniels said. “It would kind of feel like I’m roughing up a little kid.”