Rockford, Ill.- Hockey players give each other nicknames.
In a fraternal bonding sort of way, guys in a professional hockey locker room stop being Smith or Johnson. Rather, they become instead a Smitee or Johnie.
It could be a way to recognize each other as a part of a group, or maybe these nicknames keep things in the room light and modest.
But in a unique situation in Rockford, a guy named Jimmy is just “Jimmy” to a guy named Adam, and the same is true of the reverse.
They aren’t defying the code of the locker room; Jimmy and Adam are simply Jimmy and Adam because that’s how they knew each other – and became best friends – almost a decade before they were thrown together in the IceHogs locker room.
Rockford IceHogs Defenseman Jimmy Sharrow and Winger Adam Pineault weren’t always inseparable. Now they live just a couple of houses away from each other and carpool to practice. They get together in the afternoon to let their dogs play together.
But when they were growing up in Massachusetts, playing against each other in a competitive league near Sharrow’s hometown of Framingham, their families did not get along.
“We actually didn’t like each other; really we hated each other,” Sharrow said. “Our dad’s always argued when we played.”
But then the two had to spend a year in the same locker room after they were selected for the same under-17 USA developmental team. A rocky start quickly blossomed into a friendship the following summer, in part facilitated by the two teenager’s new-found freedom.
“We both got our (driver’s) licenses over the summer,” Sharrow said. “And we kind of talked and kept in touch. He ended up going to Boston College and I was in my second year in juniors. Then that summer we hung out all the time because we had our own cars.”
Pineault played for the Moncton Wildcats of the Québec Major Junior Hockey League for two seasons after a year at Boston College. Sharrow played three seasons with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL for three seasons before going pro.
And through juniors, getting drafted by National Hockey League teams and making their professional debuts, they kept in touch, reuniting during the summer to work out and catch up. When Pineault found himself in Ohio for the summer, Sharrow made sure to plan a trip to visit from his place in Milwaukee.
And years later both players are well versed in the minor league circuits, playing against each other occasionally and catching up when they can.
“We always pushed each other, but it was fun,” Sharrow said of the friendship. “We knew what we both wanted. We always wanted to get to the next level, but we never thought we would be playing together again.”
Starting the season with the Manitoba Moose in 2008-09, Sharrow, now in his fourth year in the pros, wasn’t getting as much playing time as he would like. And Pineault, in his third season with the Syracuse Crunch, wasn’t putting up the kind of numbers that would get him a recall to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
But in a couple of trades, almost exactly a month from each other, the two friends found themselves reunited on the same bench. Sharrow came to Rockford in a deal between the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks on Dec. 9, 2008 in a move that would further bolster an experienced Rockford defensive corps.
Pineault was the first person he called when it happened.
And then on Jan. 10, 2009, Pineault found out he would be joining Sharrow in Rockford through a deal that sent winger Mike Blunden to the Columbus organization.
“He called me at 7:45 in the morning and said ‘hey I was traded,’ then he said 'to the Blackhawks,' ” Sharrow said. “I thought he was pulling my chain and then we laughed because we found out we were going to play together.“
Now two players looking for a new start in a new organization have found it with the Chicago Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs.
It’s a transition made easier by the fact that there is a familiar face in the locker room.
“We might never play together for the rest of our careers,” Pineault said. “But we’re on a great run and it makes it more fun when you can do it with a close friend.”
Since being traded, Sharrow has shown he can be a force on defense, pacing the IceHogs blueliners with a plus/minus rating of +12. And in 24 games, he has also displayed a quick and accurate shot from the blue line. He has posted three goals and three assists.
A fourth-round pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2004, Sharrow made his professional debut with the Chicago Wolves in Omaha, Neb. on Oct. 7, 2005. He split time between the Wolves and Gwinnett Gladiators (ECHL) in his rookie year and made the Chicago squad out of camp in his sophomore season.
After two seasons, the d-man was traded to the Vancouver organization for Jesse Schultz. In 2007-08 he finished with five goals and 17 assists in 44 games with the Manitoba Moose, the Canucks’ AHL affiliate.
And this year he has missed only two games since coming to the Forest City.
Pineault is one of the hottest IceHogs right now, tallying a goal and three assists since the All-Star Break. In 11 games with the IceHogs, he has scored two goals and five assists.
The winger recorded 33 goals and 43 assists in 131 games in two full seasons with the Syracuse Crunch. He made his NHL debut on April 3, 2008 in Detroit, finishing without a point in three games with Columbus last season.