Defenceman Mario Grman skates with the puck during scrimmage action Tuesday night at Kootenay Ice training camp.

Defenceman Mario Grman skates with the puck during scrimmage action Tuesday night at Kootenay Ice training camp.

From foes to friends

River Beattie and Mario Grman haven’t always been on good terms, but this season that’s changed

Oh how quickly foes can become friends.

Okay, so maybe ‘friends’ is a strong word at this point, but River Beattie and Mario Grman are working on it as the Kootenay Ice progress through training camp this week.

Despite their past differences on the ice, one thing is certain — Beattie and Grman are more similar than you might imagine.

But first, let’s flip the calendar back to March 6, 2015.

Beattie, a 17-year-old rookie forward with the Kootenay Ice skates across the red line at Western Financial Place and catches Jeff de Wit — an unsuspecting Red Deer Rebels forward — with his head down.

Maybe Beattie gets his elbow up, maybe he catches de Wit on the chin. But we aren’t here to debate the check.

From out of nowhere, a 17-year-old rookie Slovakian by the name of Mario Grman confronts Beattie and as quickly as de Wit hit the floor, the gloves were off as the two WHL freshmen scrapped it out.

Grman’s recounting of the tilt is simple and straight to the point.

“I ask him about fight and he went,” Grman said with a chuckle.

Beattie offered up a little more.

“We had a little scrap last year and it was good for us,” Beattie said with a grin Tuesday afternoon. “Good on him for stepping up for his teammate.

“Him and I have gotten along quite a bit in camp so far. It’s good.”

Skip ahead to the CHL Import Draft.

After being released by the Rebels, Grman is selected by the Ice with the 95th overall pick in the second round of the annual international stock up.

Suddenly, Beattie and Grman are on a crash course once again — but this time for a completely different reason.

Now flip your calendar back to September 2015.

Tuesday is the second day of Kootenay Ice training camp and as veterans players are mixed in with the prospects, Beattie and Grman find themselves donning the same white sweaters ahead of scrimmages.

“I love having guys on my team that will be there for me if something happens,” Beattie said, referring to Grman. “I’ll do the same for them.”

Perhaps it was by design, perhaps it was pure coincidence that both landed on Team White. Either way, Beattie and Grman have settled their differences and are looking forward to skating together, both with Team White throughout training camp and with the Kootenay Ice, assuming both stick around Cranbrook full-time.

“I talk with him about this,” Grman said of the fight with Beattie. “But everything is okay now. We are teammates.”

While the two come from vastly different places nearly 8,000 kilometres apart — Beattie a native of Sherwood Park, Alta., and Grman hailing from Topolcany, Slovakia — they both bring a remarkably similar approach to the game.

Beattie turns 18 on Halloween, and heading into his second WHL campaign in Cranbrook, he’s looking forward to the opportunity to take on a bigger role.

“Coming in as a vet, you kind of know what to expect,” Beattie said. “You’re expected to perform and show the rookies what needs to be done and where we’re going to go this season.

“We’re definitely going to have to achieve through committee. Everyone needs to perform and everyone’s got to be there. I hope I can help lead with some points and be a big, physical presence out there.”

Beattie registered nine points alongside 41 penalty minutes in his first WHL campaign.

Grman turned 18 back in April after skating in 35 games with the Rebels. After being in and out of the lineup in Red Deer, the 6-foot-1, 187-pound defenceman is also ready to take on a bigger role this season.

“I got some experience from older guys, [NHL] drafted players [in Red Deer],” Grman said. “[Rebels coach] Brent Sutter is a very good person and very good coach.

“I want to play more than last year. This is my biggest challenge. And be helpful for team. That’s it.”

The gritty Grman has yet to score a WHL goal, but registered three assists in his first season in North America. He put up 43 penalty minutes and prioritizes the rougher side of hockey.

“I like physical game, I like big hits and hard play,” Grman said.

Kootenay Ice training camp continues Wednesday morning at Western Financial Place, with scrimmages set for 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

River Beattie vs. Mario Grman – March 6, 2015: