ST. CLOUD, Minn. — "The Odd Couple" by Neil Simon was first a play, then a movie and then it was turned into a TV series. The comedy is about two divorced men who become roommates.
In the TV series that ran from 1970-75, the differences between the ultra-neat Felix Unger and the sloppy Oscar Madison were plot lines in several episodes. Corey Millen and Tom Chorske were roommates when they were teammates at the University of Minnesota during the 1986-87 season and again in 1993-94 when they were playing for the NHL's New Jersey Devils.
"We've had lots of laughs over the year," Chorske said. "If we were Felix and Oscar, I was probably Felix. Back then, I took up more of the cleaning up role and being a little more organized.
"He's caught up and he's organized now as a coach."
On April 2, the two were reunited on another hockey team. Millen was named the head coach and Chorske the general manager of the St. Cloud Blizzard junior hockey team that plays in the North American Hockey League.
In the 1985-86 season, Chorske was a freshman and Millen was a junior for the Gophers.
"I had to teach him a lot of things," joked Millen, who was a Second Team All-American as a junior. "We were three years apart ... when it was all said and done, he wasn't a guy where we were spending a lot of time together, though the team would go and do some things together.
"The fall the following year (1986-87), Tom and Marty Nanne needed a place to stay and we had a real nice place. Somehow we got connected and it ended up being a real good situation. From there, our friendship grew substantially."
After he finished his eligibility, Millen would sign with the New York Rangers, who had drafted him in the third round in 1982. Millen got traded to the Los Angeles Kings and then was traded to the Devils in 1993. Chorske was a first-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 1985, signed with them in 1989 and got traded to the Devils in 1991.
Chorske, 53, played pro hockey until 2001, playing his last season with the Houston Aeros. Millen, 56, played in the NHL until 1997 and then played pro hockey in Germany and Switzerland before retiring in 2003.
The Blizzard will be the third NAHL team that Millen has been the head coach for. He was the head coach for the Alaska Avalanche for the 2011-12 season and then was the head coach for the Minnesota Wilderness from 2013-16. The Wilderness, who are based in his hometown of Cloquet, Minn., won the NAHL's Robertson Cup as its playoff champions in 2015 and he has a 145-66-12-10-17 regular season record in the league.
In Millen's first season with the Wilderness, the team had won the Dudley-Hewitt Cup in the Canadian Junior 'A' playoffs the previous season. Millen is inheriting a different situation with the Blizzard.
The Blizzard moved to St. Cloud in the summer of 2019, had the second-worst record in the 26-team league (10-37-4-1) and the team has not had a winning record since the 2016-17 season.
"We need to try to work with the culture," said Millen, who played for Team USA in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. "I like to think that most of my teams worked. We had three really good (Wilderness) teams. Philosophically, I'm probably going to try to do some of the same things.
"I think we were organized as a group. Each team has a little bit of its own identity. But we want to build a strong culture off the ice."
Millen left the Wilderness to go back to school and finish a degree at the University of Minnesota. In 2016-17, he finished his bachelor's degree in sport and recreation management and was an undergraduate assistant coach for the Gophers under head coach Don Lucia.
"Don Lucia approached me and said, 'Why don't you come back to school and help us out?' because he knew I hadn't finished my degree," Millen said. "I give Don Lucia a lot of credit because that was a fabulous deal. It was a full year of full (class) loads and it was tough, but it was a fun year.
"When it was all said and done, I did want my degree because you have to have it to coach college hockey. That lent a new avenue."
After that season, Millen spent the 2017-18 season as the director of hockey operations at Air Force Academy. In 2018-19, he was an assistant coach for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League. Since then, he has been looking for the right coaching job.
"Chris Canavati, the (Blizzard) owner threw a shot over the bow at me a couple weeks ago and asked if I'd be interested in the opportunity and it worked from there," Millen said. "I had three different opportunities, all a little different.
"This wasn't something I thought I wanted to pursue, but when he called. I thought, 'Let's consider it.' I loved the opportunity to get back being a head coach. I like the North American Hockey League. The kids are eager. Most of the kids haven't been given anything, so they're going to work. I thought it was intriguing."
Millen replaces Moe Mantha, who retired after the end of the season. Casey Mignone is staying on as the team's associate head coach.
Chorske has been in the public eye a bit more than Millen in recent seasons, serving as an analyst for FOX Sports North's Minnesota Wild broadcasts since 2008. His full-time job has been in business sales.
"I was talking to Corey and was talking with one of our college teammates — Pat Micheletti — and he said, 'I told Corey to apply for that job and you should get involved because they need someone to run the business side,'" Chorske said. "We started talking and we got excited about it. We went back to the owner, Chris, and pitched interviewing me for the operations side."
Last season, the business side did not have a great bottom line. The Blizzard averaged 33 fans for 28 home games, which was the worst in the league by a wide margin after moving from Brookings, S.D. New Jersey was 25th in the league in attendance at 203 per game. Shreveport led the league in attendance at 2,575 per game and 12 teams in the league averaged more than 1,000 per game.
"It's such a challenge to find that right balance between winning on the ice, developing the players, getting sponsors involved, getting tickets sold," he said. "Last year was a real challenge for them. They didn't get off to a good start either in the community or on the ice. When I say in the community that means in the business community and that also includes the community itself.
"I know that the organization had to make a change in the role I'm taking over in December. That didn't help either ... Unfortunately, they have to hit the reset button and that's where Corey and I have to start fresh with the business community, the hockey community and with the community in general. We have to reintroduce the Blizzard with a new look."