Coach Clowe returns to HP Pavilion

Coach Clowe returns to HP Pavilion
December 17, 2012, 11:15 pm
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Ryane Clowe: "I think more than anything, I just miss being out there.”

SAN JOSE – The sights, the sounds, and the smells were all very familiar to Ryane Clowe. The view, though, was just a little bit different.

Clowe, the locked-out Sharks forward who is currently acting as an assistant coach for the ECHL’s San Francisco Bulls, saw his new team drop a 6-4 decision to the Stockton Thunder in front of nearly 13,000 fans at HP Pavilion on Monday night. Despite the loss, it was a pleasant experience for the guy who would have been in a Vancouver hotel getting ready for a game against the rival Canucks rather than standing behind the bench, had the NHL season started as scheduled.

“It was pretty weird, actually. I think more than anything, I just miss being out there,” Clowe said.

But, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have fun. The 30-year-old veteran of seven NHL seasons has enjoyed his time mentoring the young minor-leaguers, a small percentage of whom will graduate to the American Hockey League or higher, but many of whom will have to find work outside of hockey when their brief careers are over.

The Bulls’ experience of suiting up in the Sharks’ locker room, taking the ice in an NHL arena, and hearing so many thousands of fans cheering them on is something that most ECHL’ers never get to do. In fact, it had been more than 10 years since an ECHL team played a game in a pro arena, and that arena (Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh) isn’t even standing anymore.

For Clowe, he could see the enthusiasm on his players’ faces.

“That was the best part for me, just watching those guys and how excited they were. Especially that we got to use [the Sharks’] dressing room, they were pretty stoked about that,” he said.

“It was awesome. It’s probably one of the biggest stages that a lot of guys have played on, and they treated us really well here,” Bulls winger Kris Belan said. “We walked in and got the whole show, so it was pretty cool.”

Clowe even had a special message for defenseman Mikael Tam, who had just arrived on a flight from Worcester after playing for San Jose’s AHL affiliate over the weekend. Tam got changed in Clowe’s regular space.

“He was sitting in my stall and I said, ‘you’ve got to score tonight.’”

Tam opened the scoring at 9:21 of the first period.

Clowe wasn’t surprised by the large turnout, some of which were wearing Bulls orange but the majority of which had on their black and teal. The official announced crowd was 12,881 (all free), and by all appearances, that number was not at all inflated.

“They were obviously craving hockey, and I obviously feel bad for them that they’re not getting it right now,” Clowe said. “It sucks, but they were great tonight. I told the guys to be ready, because these fans get loud.”

Clowe signed with the Bulls on Nov. 7 and continues to practice with them, but he still has no plans to play for the team while the NHL lockout enters its fourth month. Despite the lockout moving from the meeting room to the courtroom with the latest legal filings by the NHL and players’ association, Clowe is hopeful that he’ll get to return to his regular job of bruising NHL agitator very shortly.

“Being back here, I think it’s really made me, more than anything, miss it.”

Apparently, he’s not the only one.