Ryane Clowe had to prove it wasn’t some sort of a lark, that he really wanted the job.
The 35-year-old Fermeuse native was being considered by the Toronto Maple Leafs as the head coach of the Newfoundland Growlers, the Maple Leafs’ news ECHL affiliate. But Clowe had a sense the Leafs weren’t absolutely sure about him, that while most people might have thought his birth certificate made him a natural fit for the Growlers, that in fact, it might have been like red flag for the folks representing the blue and white.
“I really don’t think the Leafs put a lot of stock in me being from here,” said Clowe, who was officially introduced as the Growlers’ first coach Wednesday morning in St. John’s. “First and foremost, they were looking for a coach, not a Newfoundlander.
“I was thinking maybe they didn’t know if I was really serious about this, that maybe they were concerned I was just interested in coming home to hang out.”
And then there was the fact Clowe, who had spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils, would be leaving the NHL and everything it represented … charter flights, big cities and top-notch venues.
“That was actually their first question,” recalled Clowe. ‘Do you really want to do this?’ You’ve been in the NHL as a player or a coach for 15 years and you want this, the buses and the grind of travel, especially with a team travelling out of Newfoundland?”
“I told them I hadn’t played hockey for the lifestyle or money. Yes, I made good money, but that wasn’t the main reason why I played. And I told them money wasn’t the reason I wanted to coach.
“I didn’t need the money. I could have stayed in Florida, sat at on my ass, except when I wanted to play golf,” added Clowe, who made over $US40 million in a decade-long NHL playing career, one that was ended prematurely three years ago by concussions.
“I said I respect the game and the people I work with, and I think they began to see how serious I was about this.”
“I think I proved that I wanted this job and that I wanted to do it well, that I just didn’t want to be a local guy who had been an NHL player coming home.”
The clincher, feels Clowe, was when let it be known he would be moving his family — his wife Jennifer, daughter Willow and son Bodhi — from Florida, where they’d been living year-round, to St. John’s.
In other words, he wouldn’t be treating this as a trial run.
“Once they found out that I intended on moving my whole family from Florida, I think they really knew, that they really understood I wanted to coach … I think I proved that I wanted this job and that I wanted to do it well, that I just didn’t want to be a local guy who had been an NHL player coming home.”
Not that it had been an easy call.
“It was actually agonizing. In the first place. I loved New Jersey and working for (Devils head coach) John Hynes. I certainly wasn’t looking to leave, and on top of that, I was in line for a promotion,” said Clowe, who could have been become Hynes’ lead assistant
Geoff Ward, who held that job last year, had left to join Bill Peters’ staff with the Calgary Flames.
“I won’t say (Hynes) was upset, but it was clear he didn’t want me to leave. At the same time, he understood. I’m looking for a chance to develop as a head coach.
“I know the team has to do well. I have to perform well at my job, but hopefully, this is the start I need, a good start to my head coaching career.
“I think with it being the Leafs and with kind of the organization you know Glen Stanford will have here, this was a perfect opportunity and I had to take it.”
Next up for Growlers is the hiring of an assistant coach and a start to the inking of players other than those who will be assigned here by the Maple Leafs organization. Clowe will be involved in both these processes. In fact, Stanford, the Growlers’ CEO, said they had, in part, been waiting on Clowe officially taking over the job before going full-bore on those efforts.
Towards that end, Stanford said announcements on an assistant coach and the first players for the Newfoundland roster should be coming in a week to 10 days.