Two--and-a-half years ago, Ryane Clowe’s world was rocked.
On Nov. 16, 2015 in St. Louis, Clowe, then 32, played what would be his last National Hockey League game. Injuries, more specifically concussions, had demanded their toll, which turned out to be the end of his playing career.
It was admittedly and expectedly tough to take. The Fermeuse native less than halfway through a five-year, $US24 million contract he had signed with the New Jersey Devils as an in-demand free agent. And although he was on the back end of an NHL career that had started a decade before, its sudden conclusion was still jarring.
But Clowe remained in the game. His injuries meant he was still making his salary and the Devils kept him in the fold, first as a scout and then for the last two years as an assistant coach.
Over that time, his physical health has improved. His mental outlook improved even more quickly, helped by the new opportunity the Devils had provided.
The first year out of the game was hard, real hard. Being around (the game) every day has probably been the best for me. It’s given me another real jolt of energy.”
It set him on a new course, and one that has led him home.
This morning in St. John’s, Clowe will be officially introduced as the head coach of the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers. The announcement that Clowe would head up the expansion team actually came last month and since then, he has gone to work for his new employer, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who will be the Growlers’ NHL affiliate.
The 35-year-old was on the coaching staff for the Maple Leafs’ summer development camp in Toronto last week and while there, he told reporters he has found his new work to be invigorating.
“The first year out of the game was hard, real hard,” said Clowe. “Being around (the game) every day has probably been the best for me. It’s given me another real jolt of energy.”
It’s also allowed Clowe to test himself physically.
“I’ve been able to get to working out and getting back on the ice and doing a little bit of skating,” he said. “I feel good. Last year, it (his recovery) took a real positive turn.
A couple of long years, but (I’m) starting to see some light.”
Clowe never played in the ECHL, but this won’t be his first experience with the league. During the 2012-13 NHL lockout, when he was playing with the San Jose Sharks, Clowe spent some time skating in practices with the nearby San Francisco Bull of the ECHL. “I ended up somehow on the bench and started to coach a little bit. That’s where I first caught the bug,” he said.