Freshly retired Galway great Canning runs a restaurant in Limerick close to Shannonside star Hegarty's family house.
Hegarty, six years younger than Canning at 26, said he bumped into the Portumna man a number of times at the restaurant and enjoyed playing against him too.
Hegarty recalled Canning's debut year of 2008 and, in particular, how the powerful forward scored 2-12 of Galway's 2-15 tally in a Round 4 qualifier loss to Cork.
"I remember watching that game, 13 years ago," said Hegarty, a Bord Gáis Energy #HurlingToTheCore ambassador. "I was 13, I grew up as a young fella watching Joe. I watched the game against Waterford the other day too and like, just what a hurler. Absolutely incredible hurler. He's done so much for Galway hurling. He owes Galway hurling absolutely nothing."
Canning won his only All-Ireland senior medal with Galway in 2017, ending the county's 29-year wait for MacCarthy Cup success.
The following season Hegarty and Limerick beat Galway in the final to win the title themselves for the first time in 45 years.
"I watched the 2017 final and I remember watching a bit of the post-game and just seeing the joy in the ground that day for the supporters of Galway because they're a massive hurling county and for Joe to get his All-Ireland medal," said Hegarty.
"I'm sure he would have liked to have won a couple more but that day will still be a highlight of his for the rest of his life. He'll go down as one of the greatest ever. There's absolutely no doubt about that whatsoever, what a career he's had."