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Newfoundland Native Ryane Clowe Defies Odds

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
Ryane Clowe is part of a rare breed in the NHL.  Yes, 60 percent of NHLers hail from his native Canada, but of the 361 Canadians in the league on opening night, just 14 are from the maritime provinces, and only three can claim Newfoundland as home. 
 
The province’s population is just over 500,000, but Saskatchewan’s is double that and boasts 10 times the NHLers.  For some reason, inhabitants of North America’s most northeastern point aren’t found quite as easily.
 
“Hockey is huge in Newfoundland,” said Clowe.  “It is way out there though, so there is not a lot of exposure.  To play some other top teams (when you are younger) you either have to fly or go by boat.”
 
Even playing against anybody as a youngster was a task for Clowe, who hails from a town of less than 700 people.
 
“I’m from Fermeuse and there are about six or seven hundred people,” said Clowe.  “At home we played on an outdoor pound when it froze or we played street hockey with five or six friends.”
 
Like most kids, Clowe’s young eyes weren’t pegged on playing professionally too early.
 
“I guess I just played because I loved playing,” said Clowe. 
 
When it came time for Clowe to begin organized hockey, it was not an easy task.
 
“We had to drive an hour to get to the rink in Witless Bay,” said Clowe.  “My mom came to all the games and my dad drove me to most practices because he was my coach the first couple of years.”
 
Then when Clowe was 14, his parents (his father worked as a crab and shrimp fisherman and his mom took the duties of raising the family) made a decision to uproot the family.
 
“I lived in Fermeuse until I was 14 and then we moved to the city,” said Clowe.
 
This provided the now six-foot-two, 225-pound forward to ability to further improve his hockey skills. 
 
Then came the difficult part of Clowe’s journey to the NHL.  It is the rare Canadian NHLer who didn’t play major junior and it was not a lock Clowe would be able to make the jump.
 
“I was a walk-on and didn’t know if they had a space open,” said Clowe of his first effort to make the Quebec Major Junior League.  “A couple of exhibitions went well, but I was cut from Moncton and played Jr. A there.  At Christmas I had a tryout with Rimouski and made it.”
 
In just 53 games, Clowe registered 73 points (28 goals and 45 assists) and that allowed him to begin considering life as a professional hockey player.
 
“I didn’t know I had a future in hockey, not until I made it to Rimouski,” said Clowe.  “I used to watch the St. John’s Maple Leafs and obviously wanted to be a pro.”
 
In the QMJHL, Clowe was skating with NHL drafted players and for the first time learned he could compete on an even keel with them. 
 
Clowe made the jump to the AHL in 2003-04 and had succeeded in becoming a professional hockey player.  The next step was the NHL and another AHL season helped that goal come true.
 
“I developed a lot during the lockout (2004-05),” said Clowe.  “It gave me a lot of confidence.  A lot of NHLers were down and the league was really good.”
 
So was Clowe who registered 62 points (27 goals, 35 assists) in 74 contests. 
 
That, plus a strong training camp put him on the Sharks 2005-06 opening night roster when the team traveled to Nashville, Chicago and St. Louis.  Clowe used the trip to play in his first NHL game and to post his first career NHL point.  And the man who drove him to all the practices an hour each way as a kid, made the trek to the Midwest.
 
“He loved it,” said Clowe.  “He flew in to watch me play.”
 
Now, Clowe hopes he, along with Detroit’s Daniel Cleary and Montreal’s Michael Ryder, can be an inspiration to others from Newfoundland trying to make the league.
 
“I’m the first person that made it to the NHL from the area,” said Clowe.  “A couple were drafted, but I was the first to make it.  Now if players are good enough, scouts will find you.”
 
Still, Clowe wouldn’t trade his hometown roots for additional hockey exposure while growing up.
 
“Everyone there is so supportive back home,” said Clowe.  “That is what I love about it.  A lot of the people move out when they get older, but I am proud to be from here.  It helped me become who I am.  I loved growing up in a small town like that.”
 
And small towns like producing native sons like Clowe.
 
NEXT CHAT
The next live chat will take place with Mike Grier on Wednesday, Dec. 27 at 3 p.m. PST.  To submit questions, click here.
 
NEXT GAME
San Jose will close out their pre-Christmas portion of the schedule with a 7 p.m. contest with Calgary Saturday night at HP Pavilion.  Limited tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Box Office and at www.ticketmaster.com.  The game will be aired on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.
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