Jumping to the Oshawa Generals from the Peterborough Petes is akin to switching sides in the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys.
The Petes and Generals have a deep-rooted rivalry and, a few years ago, Jeff Twohey never would have imagined working for the enemy.
Twohey was a Pete through and through. He had spent 30 years with the storied Ontario Hockey League organization until he was blindsided two years ago and was fired as Peterborough's general manager.
Now he finds himself in the same role, running the Generals. It's early, but the veteran junior hockey man could not have asked for a better beginning to his new job. Oshawa has the best record in the OHL at 4-1-0 and two of his team's wins have come at the expense of the Petes.
"Time has softened the hurt for me," said Twohey, who worked a couple of seasons as a scout for the Phoenix Coyotes in between OHL gigs.
"I had been back to the [Peterborough] Memorial Centre as a scout and watched the Petes from a distance. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't painful to leave the Petes.
"Outside my family, that team was the most important thing in my life. I loved that team. The most painful thing was they walked in with no warning and five minutes later I was gone."
Twohey, 52, was mentored by Petes legends Roger Neilson, Dick Todd and Jacques Martin. He began as a part-time scout with the Petes back in 1980 when he was a student at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont. He scouted Sudbury and the area and, after finishing school, he returned to Peterborough to become the Petes trainer.
Todd hired Twohey, even though he had no experience sharpening skates, repairing equipment or treating injuries. But he was a quick study and learned on the job.
He also continued to scout when the Petes weren't playing and eventually moved up the organization's ladder from assistant coach to assistant coach/assistant GM to GM, a position he held for 17 years.
He was part of four OHL championships in Peterborough -- two as GM in 1995-96 and 2005-06 -- and sent many juniors to the NHL, including Eric and Jordan Staal. But after four consecutive losing seasons, Twohey was sacked.
He had other opportunities to get back into the OHL. But the pull wasn't there. Then the Generals ownership group -- Peter DeBoer, Adam Graves and Rocco Tullio -- called.
Twohey didn't take the job to spite the Petes. He liked who was involved with the Generals, the club's history and he didn't want to regret not giving junior another try.
"I was really enjoying the opportunity working with the Coyotes," Twohey said. "I learned so much in two years and [Phoenix GM] Don Maloney was so good to me.
"I wasn't sure if I wanted to do it all over again. But this was different.
"Peter DeBoer called me in April and then I had another call from Adam Graves. Rocco was great, too.
"My interest was piqued. I also appreciate the history of the organization with people who ran this team before like Sherry Bassin and Gus Bodnar as well as all the outstanding players who have been here. It was a good fit."
Twohey's wife Nicole and daughters Julie and Erin were supportive of the decision to go to work for the enemy.
His first duty was to hire a new coach. Twohey interviewed a whopping 25 candidates. He would have liked an experienced head coach, but one lesson he learned as a Coyotes scout was that sometimes an inexperienced candidate could be successful, too.
As an example, Twohey got to know all the coaches in the OHL as a Coyotes scout. He would often have to find out about a Phoenix prospect or check a draft-eligible player's personality or work ethic.
One person Twohey came away impressed with was Guelph Storm bench boss Scott Walker, who became a head coach a few months after he retired as a player.
So the person Twohey decided to hire was 35-year-old D.J. Smith, a former NHL defenceman who spent the past seven seasons as a Windsor Spitfires assistant coach. Led by Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Boone Jenner, who has scored seven times in five games, Smith and Twohey have the Generals on the right track.
"D.J. is not an ego guy," Twohey said. "We have a young coaching staff.
"They're intense and no nonsense and I have really been impressed with what they have done. I have an open-book relationship with D.J.
"I never have signed or traded a player without his knowledge and I sit in on his meetings and pre-game talks with the players. We share everything."
And all that sharing has the former Pete thriving with the enemy.
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