Clowe has gained respect as a leader

Robin
Robin Short
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Ryane Clowe's become a leader for the Sharks by backing up what he says, on and off the ice

The perfect example of perseverance and belief in oneself: Ryane Clowe, who once couldn't make bantam A all-star or AAA midget teams on his first try, has turned himself into an all-around NHLer.

Boston — He’s a Top 6 forward on one of the NHL’s best teams. He scores goals, he sets up goals, he’s a physical player. He even fights when the need arises.

On top of all that, Ryane Clowe has quickly become a leader inside the San Jose Sharks’ locker room, a room chock-full of veteran presence.

“This guy can do it all,” says the Sharks’ all-star defenceman, Dan Boyle. “He plays a good, honest game and we all respect him for that.”

“He performs on the ice,” adds San Jose coach Todd McLellan, “and he backs up whatever it is he has to say.”

Once just another late-round draft pick trying to make an impression with the big club, Fermeuse-born, Mount Pearl-raised Ryane Clowe has become an impact player not only on the Sharks, but in the NHL.

Not bad for a kid who couldn’t make his bantam all-star team.

So the question remains: is Ryane Clowe the best Newfoundland-born player in the National Hockey League?

Telegram Sports Editor Robin Short was recently in Boston, on assignment covering Clowe, Bonavista’s Michael Ryder of the Boston Bruins, and Newfoundland’s finest young hockey player, rookie Luke Adam of St. John’s, recently reassigned to the American Hockey League from the Buffalo Sabres.

Catch up with Newfoundland’s top hockey talent in The Telegram.

Tomorrow: Michael Ryder

Monday: Luke Adam

 

Ryane Clowe was angry. Livid, really. Seething.

It was a splendid California May evening outside, but inside the HP Pavilion, where the San Jose Sharks play their NHL games, a storm was brewing within Clowe, the Sharks’ big left-winger.

San Jose had just dropped a 4-2 playoff game to the Chicago Blackhawks, to fall behind their Western Conference final series two games to none.

Clowe had seen enough.

In a fit of rage, he kicked the locker room door. A few times, really. Darn near tore the thing off its hinges. He cracked off a hockey stick. Threw a garbage can.

If some others on the Sharks were content with their semifinal playoff win over the Detroit Red Wings, then by God Clowe wasn’t. And he was about to let them know.

Chicago would win the series — in a sweep — and go on to win their first Stanley Cup since 1961.

But in San Jose, that display after Game 2 served notice that Clowe had officially arrived as a leader within a locker room full of veterans and NHL all-stars.

“Some people are cheerleaders,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “Who needs cheerleaders? You have to back it up, you have to come to the rink and perform every day, and Clowie does that. He has credibility.

“He performs on the ice and he backs up whatever it is he has to say. There’s not one guy in that locker room who can say Ryane Clowe doesn’t back up his words.”

Dan Cleary may be one of the top six forwards on the Detroit Red Wings and have a Stanley Cup ring. Michael Ryder may have garnered the most points of any Newfoundlander to play in the NHL.

But there’s an argument to be made that Fermeuse-born, Mount Pearl-raised Ryane Clowe may be the most dominant hockey-playing Newfoundlander in the world today.

On a Sharks team that had four Canadian Olympians last year, Clowe is third in team scoring, second in penalty minutes and third in hits. He is also one of the few Sharks players with a plus rating.

But to get the real story on Clowe, you have to look past the goals and the assists and the penalty minutes.

He does all the things fans sometimes don’t notice. He plays hurt. He plays equally tough on the road as he does at home. He scores on the road.

And he speaks up in the room.

It’s one of the reasons why the Sharks are paying Clowe handsomely, US$3.5 million a year for four years (he’s into Year 2 of the deal).

Saturday afternoon, in a 2-0 win over Ryder’s Boston Bruins at TD Garden, there was Clowe on the ice for the last shift, helping protect the lead.

And this on a Sharks’ team that boasts the Big Three up front — Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau, who won with Canada at last year’s Olympics.

“He can play a physical game, he can fight, he can score goals, he can make plays,” said San Jose defenceman Dan Boyle, the fourth Shark to win gold in Vancouver.

“This guy can do it all. He plays a good, honest game and we all respect him for that.”

"I'm an intense guy and there's nothing more I like than winning. Some guys can sound like a broken record, right? And I guess words only go so far if you don't back them up." Ryane Clowe

This year, McLellan and the Sharks’ coaching staff liked what they saw within Clowe inside the locker room, rewarding him with a letter, San Jose’s assistant captain on the road.

It’s a job Clowe doesn’t take lightly, and it’s shown already this year. Twice, he’s taken his team to task publicly for what he perceived was a shoddy effort.

After a 4-3 loss to Vancouver last month, Clowe told reporters, “I guarantee you right now there are guys who don’t feel that tired after that game,” adding later that he, “absolutely” stood by his post-game remarks.

“He’s not afraid to bark, and we absolutely love to see that as a coaching staff,” said McLellan.

“I’m an intense guy and there’s nothing more I like than winning,” Clowe said after the Bruins encounter, providing the Sharks a modest three-game win streak.

“Some guys can sound like a broken record, right? And I guess words only go so far if you don’t back them up.

“But that was one of those situations where I felt the time was right. I didn’t think I was stepping out of line, not at all. I’m not one of those guys who is going to call out a teammate in the papers and not to their face. I’ll let guys know face-to-face, and I think people respect that.”

While Cleary’s about-face from a high-profile junior sensation to nearly finding himself out of the NHL to core player on a Stanley Cup champion, is one of this province’s all-time, feel-good sports stories, Clowe’s emergence to NHL stardom — yes, stardom — is just as compelling.

It wasn’t all that long ago he was in San Jose’s minor league system, just another mid- to late-round draft pick looking to make a name for himself somehow, somewhere.

Clowe was big, no doubt (today he stands 6’3” and weighs 225 pounds, without so much as a gram of fat). But the knock was that he couldn’t skate, that he wasn’t quick enough, that he

couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that.

But here he is, doing it — in the NHL.

He still won’t be mistaken for the Sedins or Martin St. Louis or any of those darty little forwards who thrive in today’s game, but Clowe motors in his own way. He’s a Peterbilt among Ferraris. And when the big diesel gets going, watch out.

You won’t see Clowe turn out end-to-end rushes like Alex Ovechkin or Pavel Datsyuk. You won’t see him dangle like Sidney Crosby and unleash the one-timer like Steve Stamkos (though, for a big man, he’s got very good hands).

No, many of Clowe’s goals come from in close, in the goalie’s kitchen. He doesn’t do anything flashy, but he’s got all the little things down pat. There are very few better at protecting the puck, working the corners, driving to the net.

Clowe, it seems, figured out a long time ago what it takes to get to the NHL and stick.

“A little of it came natural as far as hockey sense goes,” he said.

“It’s just something you have. But on the flip side, you have to figure out things and adjust quick. I think I’ve done that.”

“He actually figured all that out at 17,” said Bob Thompson, the St. John’s personal trainer with whom Clowe and Teddy Purcell and a host of other hockey players train during the summer.

“He’s one of those athletes who determined what their limitations were and worked on their weaknesses.

“He’s improved at every level he’s been at, from junior to the AHL and now the NHL. And at every level, he wasn’t supposed to be there. Even now, in the NHL, he’s still getting better.”

Upstairs in the soon-to-be-razed Smallwood Arena in Mount Pearl, among the many team photos hanging inside the display cases, there’s a photo of a Mount Pearl bantam B team from some year. In the top row stands a tall kid, a Ryan (no ‘e’) Clowe.

Imagine, an NHLer from Mount Pearl who failed to make the A all-star club.

He also didn’t make the AAA midget all-stars his first time out, spending Grade 11 at Mount Pearl’s O’Donel High School playing high school hockey and a bit of midget house league hockey.

See, While the coaches, page 2

Organizations: National Hockey League, San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins American Hockey League

Geographic location: Boston, Newfoundland, San Jose Fermeuse Mount Pearl

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • Bill Hlynsky
    February 15, 2011 - 11:30

    Nice article. I work with a Newfoundlander who knows Ryane so I get to hear about him alot. He truly is a Perterbilt on the ice, kind of like Keith Primeau in his prime; a real force. I'll be watching him on the 25th against the Flames. I can only hope he's not too destructive.

  • judy king
    February 14, 2011 - 07:11

    Way to go Ryane we are so proud of you, keep up the good work!!!!

  • Proud
    February 12, 2011 - 10:26

    Way to go Ryane, Couldn't of come to a better fella. One thing you missed Robin; Ryane always had to skill, but never had to size growing up. He went from 5'5" to 6'3" between grade 11 & grade 12 and the rest was history. Even when Ryane was 5'5", he had 'slow feet', haha. Keep up the great work Ryane, all of NL is proud of you.

  • Hockey Watcher
    February 11, 2011 - 15:56

    "Imagine, an NHLer from Mount Pearl who failed to make the A all-star club". To this very day in Mount Pearl it is based on WHO you know and not what you know or skill level. Too many people get invloed to make sure their child gets on the right teams and it is skilled players like Clowe who have to settle. Like it to this very day. Congrats Ryane, I bet Fermuse is proud of you.

  • Dave Merrigan
    February 11, 2011 - 13:17

    I was was Ryane's coach for the "bantam B" team that the writer mentions., it was back in 1996-1997. He was a great kid with a great attitude and strong hockey sense back then and from what I can tell, continuously worked hard to earn a spot on every team he played. In an era of "can't miss prospects" that have their whole professional career planned out for them in Novice, I remembering Ryane working hard, having fun playing the game, and not being pressured by his parents or anyone else to develop at any pace but his own and turn the game into a profession - as a result, he exceeded everyone's expectations for the 14 year old kid who moved to Mount Pearl from around the bay. Congrats, Ryane, I continue to follow your career with great interest.

    • SharkTooth
      February 11, 2011 - 17:18

      Just wondering...was Ryane Clowe a rough and tough player back then too? Or was the power forward part of his game something he developed later? We Shark fans want to know!

  • Calvin
    February 11, 2011 - 11:46

    So CONFUSED, what about the players who volunteer in the communities they play in? And the ones who take their summer months and volunteer back home with kids organizations. And the ones who give generously to charities? You're right, some players are garbage role models, but some are exceptional human beings who do not forget their roots and know what is important to pass on to the next generation of players. Get over yourself and dont badmouth a local hero for the sake of starting an argument.

  • Lisa
    February 11, 2011 - 10:09

    James, It has not and will not go to his head!

  • confused
    February 11, 2011 - 09:18

    why do people put hockey players on such a pedestal? again and again you hear about their issues (legal and whatnot) off the ice (Tootoo or Komisarik for example) but that somehow always gets forgotten when the puck drops. nice article, no doubt, bot i think the term "role model" shouldn't end with someone that flicks a puck around for a living.

  • Stephen Harte
    February 11, 2011 - 08:53

    Keep up the great work! Keep making NL proud! My 4 year old son's favorite player!!

    • Glenys kenny
      February 11, 2011 - 11:43

      Way to go Ryane,,,you keep them on their feet,,,,you got the respect of the players and the coaches,,thats a good thing,,keep up the good work Ryane,,,,,,Glenys

  • james
    February 11, 2011 - 08:43

    until it goes to his head

    • bambam
      February 11, 2011 - 11:46

      another player that wasnt good enough to do anything so try and bring down everyone else!! maybe if you put in the work clowe do you wouldn't be leaving these post....GET A LIFE JAMES