CODE COVID: What the pandemic has taught us about long-term care
SaltWire Selects: Stories you don't want to miss
SPECIAL REPORT: Facets of family violence
What you need to know about COVID-19 today
Continuing coverage: Mass shooting in Nova Scotia
Business Tool Kit 2021
Have you heard about the SaltWire News app?
Daily forecasts and weather facts from Cindy Day
The Heroes of 2020
Forced to retire from playing because of repeated concussions, Ryane Clowe steps aside as Growlers’ coach because of similar issues four years later
Ryane Clowe wanted to be the head coach of the Newfoundland Growlers. He wanted it badly.
Not because he wanted to come home.. Oh sure, home is where the heart is, but Clowe, who hails from Fermeuse, and his family were very comfortable living in Florida.
No, he wanted to be a coach. A head coach. And he wanted this team.
But he had to win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, who, through an affiliation agreement with the Growlers, were doing the hiring.
And the Leafs weren’t entirely convinced.
“I really don’t think Toronto put a lot of stock in me being from here,” Clowe told The Telegram’s Brendan McCarthy back in July. “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.
“That was actually their first question: ‘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. 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.
“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.”
Clowe, of course, got the job, and in typical Clowe fashion, dove in head first.
The work ethic and passion that fueled an unlikely NHL career was evident from the start, as Clowe went to the Leafs’ summer development camp, then the team’s main training camp and the Toronto Marlies’ camp, followed by the Growlers’ training camp.
Early rises and long hours deep inside Mile One Centre became the norm.
And he loved every minute of it.
Which is what makes Thursday’s announcement, that Clowe, still only 36, has resigned as the Growlers’ coach because of medical issues, so sad.
Back in 2012-13,while he was still playing, Clowe practised with ECHL's Bulls in San Francisco during the NHL lockout. Soon, he was helping Pat Curcio behind the Bulls' bench.
“I was talking to (then Sharks coach) Todd McLellan and (assistant) Jay Woodcroft after (the lockout ended) and they asked how it was,” Clowe recalls of the unofficial coaching stint. “I remember saying, ‘I think I got the bug.’”
In 2013, Clowe signed a lucrative five-year, $25 million contract with the New Jersey Devils. He would play in only 56 games in Jersey.
On Nov. 6, 2014 in St. Louis to play the Blues, Clowe collided — an innocent enough encounter — with Alex Steen.
He would never play again.
Diagnosed with a concussion, it was at least the fourth of his career, and now, over four years later, he’s still dealing with issues related to the head injuries.
Officially, the reason for Clowe’s resignation is due to “medical reasons”. Unofficially, it’s concussion-related issues.
Clowe missed 15 games behind the Growlers’ bench this season, dealing with these same “medical issues”, including a stretch of 12 straight games before Christmas.
“Yes,” he acknowledged earlier this month following a Growlers game, “it’s a struggle.”
The Growlers last played Saturday night in Worcester, Mass., against the Railers, and Clowe was behind the bench in a 5-1 Newfoundland win.
Rather than return home for the league’s All-Star break — the ECHL All-Star game was held Tuesday in Toledo, Ohio — the Growlers travelled to Toronto where they worked with Maple Leafs’ player development people.
It was during this point in time Clowe decided to step down, and visit Maple Leafs’ doctors.
Prior to his taking over the Growlers’ coaching post, Clowe did some scouting for the Devils, and then worked for two seasons as an assistant on John Hynes’s coaching staff in New Jersey.
“It's a different position here, a different situation,” Clowe said last month of his role with the Growlers, where he was in on any and all hockey decisions. “I don't want to get into it much, but yes, the symptoms from before were there. I don't have a reason for it. It just happens.
“It's probably something I'll have to deal with my whole life. It's just how it is.”
The loss of Clowe, one of the all-time hockey favourites amongst Newfoundland and Labrador faithful, is a damaging blow to the Growlers.
As a hometown boy, former NHL star and head coach, make no mistake that Clowe was the face of the franchise.
His signing was big news in town, and now, regrettably, news of his resignation will be equally noteworthy.
“We were honoured to have Ryane serve as the Growlers first head coach in franchise history,” said owner Dean MacDonald, “but, ultimately, Ryane’s health is a priority, to not only him, but the entire organization.”
In a statement, Clowe said: “I’d like to thank the Toronto Maple Leafs for the opportunity to become the first head coach in Newfoundland Growlers history. As a Newfoundland and Labrador native, I was extremely honoured and proud to have held this position, but my health is first priority for both my family and I.”
The Leafs said Clowe will remain within the organization in a role that is not yet determined.
“I still want to do things, and I want to live my life,” he said not long ago.
It’s not likely to be coaching, where he finishes his tenure in St. John’s with a 17-8 record.
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort