His high school buddies used to call him “Hockey Paul.”

Years later, as Paul McFarland was speeding his way up the rungs of the hockey world those same buddies would feverishly text one another after each development: “Hey, did you hear about ‘Hockey Paul’?”

Hockey Paul kept rising, all the way to his hometown Maple Leafs, one of two new assistants joining Mike Babcock’s staff this fall.

My family lived around the corner from the McFarlands in Richmond Hill, Ont. We attended school together. I was a year younger, but my sister was the same age. She remembers that all Paul McFarland — Hockey Paul — ever talked about back then was, well, hockey. Maybe it was a school project. Maybe it was his dream of playing in the OHL. It was always hockey.

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