HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
It’s rare a major, world multi-sport competition is cancelled, destroying the dreams of the high-performance athletes and dissolving all the planning by the organizing committee.
But that’s what happened to the 2021 Winter World University Games in Lucerne, Switzerland, when the wrath of the COVID-19 pandemic swept around the world and wiped out the Games, which also are known as the FISU Winter Universiade.
Greg Bowles, a University of Ottawa Gee-Gees women’s hockey assistant coach, was planning to be in Lucerne as an assistant coach with the Canadian women’s hockey team. He was one of many coaches and athletes from around the globe to be stymied by the health and safety fears delivered by the pandemic.
But Bowles has received a second chance to attend his second Winter World University Games as he has been named head coach of the Canadian women’s hockey team for the 2023 Winter Universiade in Lake Placid, New York, on Jan. 12-22. At his first Universiade in 2019, Bowles helped Canada win a silver medal as a Canadian women’s hockey team assistant coach.
“Of course, the word ‘devastated’ barely begins to describe the cloud that descended over the group, when the 2021 Lucerne Games were cancelled,” Bowles said in a University of Ottawa press release.
University of New Brunswick’s Gardiner MacDougall will serve as the head coach of Canada’s men’s hockey team at the Universiade. University of Ottawa men’s hockey head coach Patrick Grandmaître will be an assistant coach on MacDougall’s staff.
The Team Canada mission staff for the Lake Placid Universiade includes Carleton University’s Nadine Smith as the chief therapist.
The Canadian women’s hockey coaching staff will be almost the same as the group that was preparing for the 2021 Lucerne Games. Bowles will work with assistant coaches Katie Mora of the University of Guelph, Kelly Paton of Wilfrid Laurier University and Sarah Hilworth of the University of New Brunswick as well as goaltending coach Kyle MacDonald of the University of New Brunswick.
Danièle Sauvageau of the Université de Montréal, who coached the Canadian national women’s hockey team to the country’s first Olympic hockey gold medal in 50 years in 2002 and was part of six Winter Olympic Games in various roles, will be the Canadian university women’s hockey team general manager in Lake Placid.
“This will be my third time going through this process with FISU as well as several of the Hockey Canada Summer Showcase events,” Bowles told U Sports in a press release. “We are excited about the mountain in front of us and not overwhelmed whatsoever about whether or not it’ll consume us.
“It’s very exciting. We feel very well prepared as we know what most of the battles are that lie ahead. We are advocating being prepared in advance such that our players can shine on the day.”
Bowles, who only expects to miss a few University of Ottawa regular-season games alongside head coach Chelsea Grills, will give the Gee-Gees a presence on the Canadian women’s Universiade hockey team for a fifth consecutive Games. Players Aurélie Dubuc and Christine Deaudelin were named to the 2021 team along with Bowles as assistant coach, but they didn’t travel to Lucerne.
Grills was team manager, Bowles was an assistant coach and Maude Lévesque-Ryan and Mélodie Bouchard were players on the 2019 team in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Bouchard also played in the 2017 Games. Elizabeth Mantha, who is an AHL official, skated for the Canadian women’s hockey team in 2015.
“Any time you get to represent your country is an honour and a privilege,” Bowles added. “However, like any large competition, these emotions are something we will have to manage. We simply need to let this group establish (its) own identity, (its) own path and ultimately (its) own outcome.
“This group has great energy. They want to be prepared. They want to be ready. When you have a coaching staff that is motivated and wants to ensure that they have covered every aspect prior to the question even being asked, it instills confidence.
“We trust that this will convey over to the athletes and they will have the same confidence to know that before the puck is dropped that we have covered every scenario that we need to be prepared for.”
Originally from Amherst, Nova Scotia, Bowles had a successful coaching record in the Nepean Wildcats organization at the U15AA, U18AA and U22AA levels from 2013-16 before joining the Gee-Gees women’s hockey program for the 2016-17 season. Bowles also is the Gee-Gees’ head scout.
Early in his coaching career, which spans more than 20 years, Bowles was co-founder of the Complete Hockey Development Centre in 2011 and the Complete Goaltending Development goalie academy in 2008. He also held private summer training sessions for skilled high-performance players and led the National Women’s Hockey League talent identification draft combine in 2015.
The women’s and men’s hockey games during the Winter World University Games will be shared between the double-rink Olympic Centre in Lake Placid and the upstate New York arenas at Clarkson University, SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Canton.
Canada won the Universiade women’s hockey gold medal in 2013 and followed with silver-medal efforts in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
HELP SHINE A LIGHT ON LOCAL SPORT! The Ottawa Sports Pages has proudly provided a voice for local sport for over 10 years, but we need your help to continue another 10 and beyond. Please donate to the Ottawa Sports Pages Fund today.