Ilya Kovalchuk and Todd Reirden were teammates in Atlanta. Reirden credits Kovy as one of the reasons he became a coach.
Russian forward Ilya Kovalchuk first arrived in the NHL during the 2001-02 season as an 18-year-old. One of his teammates on that expansion Atlanta Thrashers team was journeyman defenseman Todd Reirden, who at the age of 29, was nearing the end his career.
Kovalchuk, who could barely speak any English, became unlikely friends with Reirden that year. The mentorship was one of the reasons why Reirden got into coaching.
The two hockey lifers were reunited on Tuesday after a deadline day deal 19 years later – one as a player and the other as head coach.
Kovalchuck and Reirden spoke about their friendship with reporters after Kovy’s Capitals’ debut at the team’s morning skate.