The biggest name shuttled from Air Canada Centre to Ricoh Coliseum is a well-rounded goalie who can talk a bit.
Joe Bowen is back in the minors, broadcasting home Marlies games 31 years after his apprenticeship ended – wait for it – in the Montreal Canadiens’ organization.
“Amazing,” Bowen said, “considering how I feel about them now.”
Bowen spent seven years as the play-by-play voice of the Sudbury Wolves in the Ontario Hockey League when word reached him of an opportunity with the American League’s Nova Scotia Voyageurs.
The Voyageurs were coached by John Brophy who would go on to gain fame as one of the most incendiary coaches ever to pace the Leafs bench.
“He figured why not talk to the young radio guy and we had some great conversations with plenty of swearing and arguing,” Bowen said. “We’d have these heated discussions and then the next morning the phone would ring. It would be Broph asking me if I wanted to go for breakfast.”
Bowen spent three seasons with the Voyageurs before hooking on as a Leaf broadcaster in 1981. The American League, he said, bears little resemblance to his old training ground.
“The league has changed so much,” Bowen said. “It’s so much closer to being on par with the NHL thanks to all the information, the technology, the coaching. The AHL has kept pace with every development.”
It has also quickened its pace. With players such as Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri goosing the speed of the game, the gap between the NHL and its feeder league has never been thinner.
It is not, however, the NHL. Bowen’s stint behind the mike at the Ricoh Coliseum will be determined by the results of negotiations between the league and its players. No fan, Bowen said, is more disappointed with the lockout than his wife.
“Jannine isn’t taking it well,” Bowen said. “She had my suitcase packed and ready in August.”