When a 40-year-old Adam Oates joined the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2002, his teammates ranged from a six-time 30-goal scorer in Paul Kariya, to a fellow veteran in Steve Thomas, to a soft spoken French Canadian goalie in Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

There was also a journeyman forward known as ‘Disco Dan’ Bylsma, who at 32 years of age had never scored more than 17 points in a single NHL season.

While Oates was busy feeding 50-goal scorers Brett Hull and Cam Neely in St. Louis and Boston, Bylsma spent much of the 1990s riding busses with such teams as the Greensboro Monarchs (ECHL), Moncton Hawks (AHL) and Long Beach Ice Dogs (IHL).

Their paths could not have been more different, but Oates and Bylsma had both seen and experienced a whole lot of hockey. Discussing the game in great detail and breaking down upcoming opponents was of mutual interest and a bond was quickly developed between the hockey lifers.

Ten years later, Oates and Bylsma now collect paychecks to analyze and teach the game, and tonight from Pittsburgh’s CONSOL Energy Center, the one-time teammates will meet for the second time in five days as NHL head coaches.
“I'm not surprised to see Adam go down the same road,” said Bylsma, now in his fifth season as head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“He certainly has the mentality for it. A skilled, highly-skilled player, but kind of a real nuts and bolts coach, a real X and Os guy. I know he's worked real well with power plays the past couple years [as an assistant coach in Tampa Bay and New Jersey]. I'm not surprised to see him over there.”

Bylsma was plenty familiar with Oates’ skill level and on-ice accomplishments when the five-time All-Star joined the Mighty Ducks in 2002, but it was the future Hall-of-Famer’s hockey I.Q. that most impressed the bottom-six forward.
“You don't know exactly what you're going to get from a star player of that caliber when you get to play with him,” Bylsma explained.