DETROIT Each won multiple Stanley Cups. Each is a Hall of Famer.
And all agree on this: The Penguins-Red Wings matchup for the Stanley Cup pits two of the league's most exciting teams and quality franchises.
Scotty Bowman coached the Penguins and Red Wings to four Cups. Larry Murphy patrolled the blue line for championship teams in both cities. Paul Coffey played for Pittsburgh and Detroit as they began their ascent to 1990s dominance.
"The last Cups they won, I was there," said Bowman, who led the Penguins to the 1992 title and Detroit to championships in 1997, 1998 and 2002. "It's going to be a really emotional series for sure. It's going to be a great series."
Bowman has Pittsburgh to thank for jump-starting the second half of his coaching career.
After stops in St. Louis (three finals appearances), Montreal (five Cups) and Buffalo and a few years as a TV analyst, Bowman joined the Penguins in 1990 as the director of player development.
"That was a lot of the allure for me to go there," he said. "I figured I wouldn't have to coach."
But he was drawn back to the bench after the team's beloved coach, Bob Johnson, fell ill following its first Cup in 1991. Bowman took over as caretaker coach, leaving open the possibility that Johnson would recover and retake control. Johnson died in November of that year, and Bowman led the Penguins to another title.
"I didn't do a lot of changes," he said. "I just tried to keep things on the same level that he would have done."
Bowman coached one more season in Pittsburgh, resulting in an upset playoff loss to the New York Islanders. Then he was offered a better deal by Detroit to become its coach. Four seasons later, the Red Wings had their first Cup triumph in 42 years.
"The first Cup was really amazing," Bowman said.
Winning a championship in Pittsburgh was "really different because we had won the Cup the year before," said Bowman, who retired after Detroit's 2002 championship.
Coffey played for Bowman during part of the 1992 season in Pittsburgh. A trade sent him to Los Angeles before he could claim a second Cup with the Penguins. The men reunited in Detroit during the 1993-94 season. But Coffey again missed out on another Cup, spending the 1996-1997 championship season in Hartford and Philadelphia.
These days, the former smooth-skating, high-scoring defenseman owns a Toronto-area car dealership and part of another. He also helps his 10-year-old son's hockey team.
He expects the series between his former teams to be a good one.
"I'm really happy these teams are in the finals from a pure entertainment perspective," he said. "Pittsburgh's pretty exciting to watch. No matter what happens in the next few weeks, they've got a great future."
Murphy, who like Coffey is a 2004 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, won back-to-back Cups in both black and gold and red and white.
The thinking man's defenseman attributed his playoff successes to "being in the right place at the right time." Bowman has called Murphy's rock-solid blue-line play integral to the success of those title teams.
Murphy lives in the Detroit area and does hockey announcing work. A Stanley Cup settled by the Red Wings and Penguins makes complete sense to him.
"It's the best matchup possible," he said.