THE VILLAGE of Warburg, Alberta, is home to 789 people, according to Canadian census data from 2011. Just under 400 of them are men.
What are the odds, then, that two boys from that town grow up and one day coach against each other in the National Hockey League?
The math would show that it's, well . . . pretty improbable, all things considered.
"It's a coaching hotbed, Warburg," Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff said with a laugh after Tuesday's morning skate at Wells Fargo Center.
Flyers coach Dave Hakstol, 47, and Dallas' Ruff, 55, were raised on the rustic prairie land in central Alberta. Hockey was their way out of the area, which usually breeds generations of farmers and manual laborers.
Ruff was a second-round selection (32nd overall) in the 1979 NHL draft. He was drafted by Buffalo, a team he played 10 seasons for. He was also a New York Ranger before his career ended.
Most notably, Ruff spent 14-plus seasons coaching those same Sabres, making the playoffs eight times. He won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL Coach of the Year in 2006. In 1998-99, Ruff's second year as their coach, the Sabres fell to - coincidentally - the Dallas Stars in six games in the Stanley Cup Final.
At that point, in 1998-99, Hakstol was a 30-year-old learning the ropes of coaching at the USHL level in Sioux City, Iowa, more than 1,300 miles from Warburg.
Given their age difference and ascension to hockey's highest level, Ruff was a town hero long before Hakstol.
"Lindy is a guy that, since I was young, he's a guy that everybody in our town looked up to," Hakstol said. "First it was as a player and now, in the second half of his career, establishing himself as one of the most successful, veteran coaches in the league. He's always been a guy that people in our town looked towards."
Including the first-year Flyers coach?
"Yeah," Hakstol said. "As a kid, I remember when he was a (second-)round pick and when he played his first games in the league."
Ruff, who is in his third year coaching in Dallas, went on to play 691 career games in the NHL. He's one of only 18 coaches to reach 500 career victories. His 657 victories place him eighth all-time and rank him third among active coaches, behind only Joel Quenneville (757) and Ken Hitchcock (713).
Despite their age difference, Ruff said he remembers Hakstol as a kid.
"He was a little bit younger, but, when you live in a town that small, you know everybody," Ruff said. "David was about the age of my younger brother (Brent Ruff)."
Brent Ruff was killed, along with three teammates of his junior team, the Swift Current Broncos, in a 1986 bus crash.
Hakstol, who left Warburg at 17 for junior hockey, was playing junior hockey at the same time.
He didn't want to comment much on the specifics of Brent's passing, but had this to say regarding the effect it had on the Warburg community: "Their family is very, very important to our community, the entire family and certainly including Brent."
Hakstol wasn't the only reason Ruff found himself pulling for North Dakota throughout the 11 seasons Hakstol spent as the head coach. Ruff's longtime assistant, James Patrick, is also a North Dakota guy. Ruff said their paths rarely crossed throughout their careers, but the Sabres played an exhibition game in 2007 at the University of North Dakota's Ralph Engelstad Arena. He got to visit with him then.
"It was automatic to be in tune with what was going on there," Ruff said. "Anytime (Hakstol) was involved in those games . . . I can't pick a team I'd say is my favorite team, but when you know somebody, you kind of root for that person."
And he's probably still rooting for him, too. Just not in Tuesday's game, of course. Or when the teams play again in December.
But after that is fair. Because, well . . . the math.
"That's a small town and for him to make it, too, is - I think - an incredible feat and congratulations because he did a great job in North Dakota," Ruff said. "Now to get this opportunity, I'm happy for him."
Ruff said he got a call recently from his father, who knew Ruff was going to be in Philadelphia. Ruff's dad wanted to make sure his son said hello to Hakstol's mother.
"How would you like me to do that? The building is pretty big. I've got work to do," Ruff said.