VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Hockey is a small world.

Clem Jodoin of the Lewiston Maineiacs and Vancouver Canucks’ Alain Vigneault coach a continent apart, but this week they have rekindled an old friendship.

“This is not just a hockey relationship,” Vigneault said. “Clem’s been a good friend of mine for a long time. Working with him in Montreal, I know what a quality individual he is. He’s a great person, and I’m very happy for the success he’s had this year.”

Jodoin earned this opportunity when the Maineiacs breezed through the QMJHL playoffs to earn the trip to Vancouver, where Vigneault now lives.

“I’m glad for Alain, the job he has done this year,” Jodoin said. “(In) hockey, you never know when you go somewhere, who might be there.”

Vigneault, in his second stint in the NHL, guided the Canucks to a 49-26-7 record, tops in the Pacific Division. The Canucks defeated Dallas in the first round of the NHL playoffs before bowing out in Round 2. Vigneault is up for the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year.

“As I’ve gone through it, I’ve tried to prove myself as a coach every year, whether it was in the American League or in juniors,” Vigneault said. “It’s the people you work with and what you learn from them. Dave (Nonis, Vancouver’s general manager) gave me a second opportunity.”

Ups and downs

In 1997, the Montreal Canadiens hired Alain Vigneault at age 36 as the second-youngest head coach in team history.

Alongside Vigneault was Clem Jodoin, a 45-year-old veteran coach, who had assisted the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1987-88.

Vigneault, a finalist for the Adams Trophy in 2000, was fired 20 games into the next season.

Jodoin stayed on until 2003 until he, too, called it quits.

“In this business, you are hired to be fired,” Jodoin said. “This is the nature of the game.”

One year after leaving the Habs, Jodoin found a home in Lewiston, coaching and running the hockey operations for the Maineiacs, who were struggling after one season under coach Mario Durocher.

Vigneault took two years off himself, and then returned to his roots in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, too. Taking over the head job at one of the Maineiacs’ Eastern Conference rival organizations, the Prince Edward Island Rocket.

From 1987 to 1992, Vigneault ran the Hull (now Gatineau) Olympiques, and once took that team to a President’s Cup title as the QMJHL champs.

“It’s not an easy business to get into, to stay in, and to come back,” Vigneault said. “That’s why there are so many great coaches. Everybody is battling for the few jobs that do come open.”

Vigneault coached the Rocket for two seasons before getting a call from the Canucks’ organization. He led the team’s AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, to a 44-24-7 record in 2005-06, and last summer replaced Marc Crawford behind the big club’s bench.

Together again

On a rare off day Monday at the Memorial Cup tournament, the Maineiacs and Jodoin paid Vigneault a visit at the Canucks’ home, GM Place, in downtown Vancouver.

Vigneault gave the team a tour of the Canucks’ facilities, and the two coaches had a chance to catch up.

“It’s fun, it’s good,” Jodoin said. “It’s interesting. For the kids, it’s their dream to be there one day, and they get to see it.”

“They seemed to be excited,” Vigneault said, “but the bottom line is that it’s just a room with walls, and the important thing is the people in the room. I think they have to look at the hard work the guys have to put in to make it at that level. There’s a big price players have to pay with their conditioning, their nutrition. Once you pay that price and make it up to the big leagues, those are some of the facilities you can have.”

The players had a good time, too, and the visit seemed to relax them after Sunday’s loss to the Vancouver Giants.

“That’s what these things are all about, being together as a team,” Maineiacs’ forward Stefano Giliati said. “Things like this provides us with some motivation. That what all of the players are gunning for.”

Seeing the two coaches back together also evoked memories for others who knew the two had worked together in the past. With the Maineiacs playing in the Memorial Cup in just three years under Jodoin, there isn’t much left – short of a Cup win – for Jodoin to achieve in junior hockey.

Jodoin remained mum on the topic.

“I live right now, I don’t live in the future,” Jodoin said. “I’m living my Memorial Cup right now.”

Vigneault respected his friend’s dedication, but also hinted that Jodoin’s time in the big leagues may not be over just yet.

“Right now Clem is really focused on getting Lewiston to play their best and to win the Cup,” Vigneault said. “I always thought that things even themselves out. You compete, you work hard as a player, and you do the same things as a coach. Sooner or later, somebody’s going to give you an opportunity. I think that’s what’s going to happen with Clem.”

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