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When Bowling Green realtor Keri Buff awoke to a sun-drenched morning at the end of July, she knew it would be a Friday like no other. Despite being “quiet season” in the world of residential real estate, she had two closings on her docket that morning, emotional transactions that signaled a historic changing of the guard in Bowling Green hockey.
At 9 a.m. on July 26, Buff helped close the sale of new head coach Ty Eigner’s house to his first-year assistant, Maco Balkovec. Buff and her family are extremely close with the Eigners, having lived and played within the BGSU athletics community for the past nine years. Coincidentally, Balkovec was part of Buff’s world a generation prior, when she grew up in Wisconsin as a football coach’s daughter, and he was a star defenseman for the Badgers.
Emotionally, that was merely the warm-up for this freakiest of all Fridays. After closing number one, Eigner, Buff, and title attorney Megan Newlove piled into their cars to head over to the home of Chris and Janice Bergeron. With Bergeron moving on to take the head coaching job at Miami University, Eigner would be moving in to his departing mentor’s house. These two men were the closest of all.
“Chris [Bergeron] is almost like a brother to me, and our families are real close,” Eigner said from his office three days later. “They’ve got a great house, a pool. A really good house for not only our family, but for entertaining the players and stuff.”
The intense emotion of the transaction seared finite details from that closing into the realtor’s memory. “We sat at a sleek wood conference table,” Buff recalled, “a metal spiral ball in the middle of the table holds pens for signing. Attorney Newlove at the head of the table, the Bergerons on one side, the Eigners on the other, papers in front of them, myself at the other end. The keys and the garage door opener in front of the Bergerons, ready for the exchange.”
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t emotional,” Eigner said. “Nine years is a long time. This was the finality. We’ve known what’s going to happen, and this day was coming, but the day was there. They signed first, and then we came in to sign, and then it was, ‘All right, here’s the keys and garage door opener.’ Chris, Janice, and my wife Erica and I were sitting at the table with the realtor. She’s got tears in her eyes.”
“I was crying,” Buff said. “Knowing the awesome connection the two families have, the trials and tribulations getting to the level of excellence they have—they did all that together. To watch Janice and Erica say their last goodbyes was very emotional for everybody in the room.”
And by 11 that morning it was complete. The next time the two families will see each other will be at dinner on Saturday, Oct. 5, in Oxford, the night before the two men will face each other for the first time as head coaches. It is a season opener laced with delicious irony. Bergeron, the figurative big brother in the relationship, wrested an elite prospect on the way out the door. Chase Pletzky, originally committed to BGSU, will be suiting up for Bergeron that night wearing Miami red.
But “little brother” Eigner has no intention of lying down for his former boss, the man who did so much for him to get his dream job at his own alma mater. “He helped a bunch, for sure,” Eigner, still aglow from their emotional farewell 72 hours prior, said. Then Eigner soberly looked ahead to his Falcons season-opening showdown with Bergeron’s Redhawks.
“We’re not riding down there to make him feel good and get him his first win at his alma mater. That’s not the plan.”
For 60 minutes on Oct. 6 in Steve Cady Arena, these two hockey brothers, joined at the hip the past nine years at Bowling Green, will become best of enemies. In the words of New York Rangers president John Davidson, “That’s hockey.”