The Newfoundland Growlers have won three in a row, and seven of their last 10 games, and coach Ryane Clowe is feeling just fine these days.
That’s the good news.
Clowe still has a hockey player’s mentality, which means he’s reluctant to talk about his lingering concussion issues. But when pressed Wednesday night following the Growlers’ 5-4 ECHL win over the Maine Mariners, Clowe admitted a recent 15-game layoff from his coaching duties was a concern, and perhaps even a bit worrisome.
“Yeah, I guess at times it is. But I feel I feel healthy. That’s the important thing, but, yes, at times, it’s a struggle,” he said.
“The last week or so has been good, so that a good thing. It’s day to day with me, honestly. The time off certainly helped, with the Christmas break. I’m trying to manage things the best I can.”
Clowe wasn’t behind the bench prior to Christmas, dealing with what the Toronto Maple Leafs organization called, “medical issues.”
He took a break from coaching during three road games in late October/early November, and was then shut down by the Leafs, his employer, for 12 straight games between November and December.
“I don’t want to get into it much, but yes, the symptoms from (previous concussions) 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. But I still want to do things, and I want to live my life.”
— Ryane Clowe
Assistant coach John Snowden took the reins in Clowe’s absence, and former NHL assistant Darryl Williams, who lives in St. John’s, pinch hit on the Growlers’ bench as an assistant for a few games.
The “issues” are linked to a series of concussion which prematurely put an end to a fine 10-year NHL playing career.
Prior to his official retirement in September, 2015 a year after signing a big contract with the New Jersey Devils, Clowe missed virtually the entire 2014-15 season with a concussion, at least the fourth of his 10-year NHL career.
And they all came within a two-or three-year period.
Clowe, a local product from Fermeuse, did some scouting for the Devils during his first year of retirement in 2015-16, but served as an assistant coach with the Devils the next two seasons before he was hired last summer as the Growlers’ first coach.
“It’s a different position here, a different situation,” Clowe, now 36, said of his role with the Growlers, where he’s in on all hockey decisions, and punching in long hours.
“I don’t want to get into it much, but yes, the symptoms from before were there,” he admitted. “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.
“But I still want to do things, and I want to live my life.”The Growlers are back in action tonight at Mile One, closing out a six-game homestand in which they’re 3-1 following a sweep of the Mariners and a split with the Jacksonville Icemen last weekend.
The Growlers (23-11-1-0) lead the ECHL’s North Division, two points up on the Adirondack Thunder, their opponents tonight and Saturday (7 p.m.).
The line of Matt Bradley between a pair of St. John’s natives, Marcus Power and Zach O’Brien, is red hot, picking a combined eight points Wednesday (O’Brien with two goals and an assist, Bradley with a goal and two helpers and Power with one of each).
O’Brien’s pair of tallies came four days after he recorded a hat trick in a 5-1 win over the Icemen Saturday, while Power has scored in four straight games. Bradley, a Vancouver native, has a goal and five assists in his last three games.
O’Brien has 29 points in 23 games (he missed 10 games with a broken finger in October and November), while Power has 27 points in 29 starts.
Following the Adirondack series, the Growlers hit the road for five games — one in Portland, Me,. against the Mariners, two in Worcester, Mass., against the Railers and two in Brampton, Ont,. against the Beast.