Paul Power was exactly where you’d expect him to be a week ago Wednesday, Regatta Day — at the Boathouse on Quidi Vidi Lake, stopwatch in hand and gazing out over the water for much of the day, especially when crews with which he was associated were skittering up and down “the pond.”
It was Power’s 35th Royal St. John’s Regatta. He’s been around the sport so long now even he admits it’s a part of who he is.
What’s not quite so clear is how many crews Power has worked with, between the Regatta’s fixed-seat oarsmen and Rowing Newfoundland’s sliding-seaters.
Let’s just say there’s been a lot.
We could also say it’s a very good possibility Power has had his fingerprints on more oarsmen and women than anybody else, both in the Regatta and with the Canada Games slide-seat program.
To put it in hockey parlance, Power is the player personnel guy on the team. The coach and GM get the ink, but the player personnel people in the trenches go largely unnoticed.
Yet their contribution to the blueprint of the team is invaluable.
“I don’t think,” said Chris Quinton, himself a championship rower, “there are any men’s or women’s championship crews over the past 10 to 15 years which can say Paul wasn’t involved in their rowing development at some point in time.”
The soon-to-be-50 St. John’s native has been to each of the previous eight Canada Summer Games — as an athlete at the 1989 Saskatoon Games and either as coach or coach/mentor in the seven since then.
He’s been a big reason rowing has garnered five medals during that period of time — not a big lot, but not bad for Newfoundland and Labrador.
And for as much as he loves the slide seat, or Olympic, style of rowing — he’s the executive director of Rowing Newfoundland — there’s a soft spot for the Royal St. John’s Regatta, and Power, for one, has managed to meld the two and develop championship athletes.
Like James Cadigan, who at the most recent Regatta became the all-time wins leader with 11 championships.
If Outer Cove coxswain Bert Hickey is the Jean Beliveau of the Regatta, as was suggested in The Telegram last year, Cadigan has emerged as the Henri Richard and his 11 titles.
“If you look at a lot of (Regatta) crews rowing fast times,” Cadigan said, “a lot of them spent time at the St. John’s Rowing Club with Paul Power.”
Like the 2007 Crosbie Industrial Services team, which currently owns the men’s course record. Three oarsmen in that boat — Cadigan, Brent Hickey and Adam Kavanagh — were part of the men’s eight crew that won bronze at the 2005 Games in Regina, behind Ontario and B.C.
On the m5 women’s course record-holders, Power has worked with and coached Katie Wadden, Alyssa Devereaux, Jane Brodie, Amanda Ryan and Amanda Hancock.
And there are many, many others, like Ashley Peach, a five-time Regatta champion and 2005 Canada Games silver medalist in the rowing pair (with Laura Rice).
In 2005, Power guided a men’s crew — The Independent — that won the championship race in a time of 9:03. It was a group — Jason Rose, Ben Stokes, Michael Ladha, John Smyth, Luke Hayes and Jeff Roche — that had been fostered by the provincial slide-seat program, working out of the east end of the Boathouse.
“It’s well known around the lake that the 2005 Independent crew revolutionized the rowing style,” Quinton said. “They incorporated a different style seat and that began a shift to use more legs and a longer rowing sweep.
“You can probably say ever since that crew, the style of fixed-seat rowing changed, and Paul was a pioneer of that for fixed-seat rowing and the Regatta. I’m pretty comfortable saying the records and times we see now can be contributed to this style of rowing.”
Power initially became heavily involved in coaching in 1991-92. When he wasn’t working at the Boathouse, he was steering seven teams.
Through the early 1990s, Valerie Parrott was the face of the St. John’s Rowing Club. When work finally forced Parrott to step back, it was Power who stepped up.
“When I came in, I said, ‘I love the Regatta, too, so let’s incorporate the two,’” he recalls.
He was full of piss and vinegar. But at 20, he had a lot to learn.
“I got in with Rowing Canada and did my levels,” he said. “I love to learn.
“But I also love working with people. I was an OK athlete, but I really found my niche working with people.”
“I didn’t know him too well,” recalls Cadigan. “I was 17, just out of high school, and I’d been on the pond since I was 13.
“I understood the Canada Games program was a pretty heavy program, and I wasn’t sure about it. But Paul sat me down and told me he felt it was a good opportunity for me, that I should at least give it a try, to put myself out there.
“And here we are.”
Cadigan said Power made an impression on him, particularly on how to train and the consistent work ethic that’s required.
“He taught us how to become competitive in a sport that is global,” Cadigan said.
“Paul’s attitude,” said Paul Hussey, who like Quinton won a Regatta championship with Toyota Plaza and rowed slide-seat, “at Rowing Newfoundland and the St. John’s Rowing Club was always to win at the Atlantic level and strive to beat bigger, more well-funded provinces nationally at the Canada Games.
“Paul Power’s unrelenting positivity, talent for coaching, passion and drive built this culture.”
Power can’t help now but look ahead to 2025. Not the Regatta that year, but the Canada Summer Games and the year Newfoundland and Labrador is scheduled to play host to the event.
It’s exciting thinking about the possibility, he said.
Equally exciting is the fact his two boys, Zachary and Mark, were part of the 2017 Canada Summer Games team.
Zachary has stepped aside from rowing, but Mark is still involved.
Which means Paul will remain involved.
Then again, he’d probably still be involved with rowing in some fashion, regardless if the kids were pulling an oar.
“I can’t see me not being around,” he said. “Once it’s in you, it’s in you.”