By Patrick Sumner
After Shane Bowers took to the ice on February 24th to an empty arena striding, stick-handling, and preparing in his normal warmup routine, he took center ice for the opening faceoff and saw a familiar face across from him. This was not the first time Bowers and Cameron Crotty, a rookie defenseman for the Tucson Roadrunners, had met before, but it was the first time they lined up across from each other. The two had previously been teammates just two years ago at Boston University, where they played side-by-side and put on scarlet and white jerseys. “It's always fun to play against former teammates," Bowers said in the aftermath of a Colorado Eagles 3-1 win, but after the combative tinted visors faded away with the final buzzer, Bowers saw the bigger picture and how the two were now, “chasing the same dream.”
Shane Bowers is a center for the Colorado Eagles and has impressed many people in the organization not only with his growing offensive output, (29 points in 60 games) but also learning how to increase his presence on the defensive side of the ice. When describing Shane Bowers’ game it's hard not to put him into the modern-day mold of a two-way forward. Players such as Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar, and Colorado Avalanche star Gabe Landeskog have also fallen into this description, but for Bowers and many other kids growing up, Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks was who he says he modeled his game after. “Growing up I’ve always loved Jonathan Toews,” Bowers said. “He's offensive and defensive, he can be a leader, and can play in all situations.” A telling quote, coming from someone who grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where everyone wants to turn into an offensive prowess that the hometown heroes Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon have become. While Bowers still gushed over Crosby and MacKinnon as players, his adoration for a true two-way forward says a lot about his style of play and the player he is becoming.
Even though many young Canadian hockey players chose to go and play in the Canadian Junior leagues, Bowers wanted to go to college and after visiting Boston University, he fell in love and attended the school while playing for the Terriers for two years. As for what influenced his decision, Bowers cited the idea that he would be "all alone at college” opposed to staying in a billet family if he were to go into the Canadian Juniors, and that going through college helped him develop “as a player, as a student, and as a person as well.” Even though many may look at college and see a lot of ramen and due dates, Bowers was able to see that in a college environment, he would be able to learn how to live on his own, in addition to adapting to a more physical game on the ice. College hockey is widely regarded as being a bigger, more physical game and in Bowers’ eyes is “definitely more similar to the pros than juniors.” Bowers' college experience proved to be a key factor in making his transition to the AHL and states he still "loved his experience."
One day at Boston University, Bowers got a call from the Ottawa Senators telling him that he had been involved in a trade, followed by a call from none other than Joe Sakic detailing how he had been traded to the Colorado Avalanche in the Matt Duchene deal. The blockbuster trade made waves in the NHL and made Bowers think about how he was an important piece “involved in a pretty big trade for a highly recognizable player.”
A year later, Bowers would have his eyes opened again to how important of a piece he was becoming when he signed his entry-level deal with the Avalanche. With no hesitation, he joined the Eagles for the 2018-19 playoff run, and what ended with postseason disappointment, led to a swift turnaround the next season when Bowers played in 48 games while tallying 27 points until the season was cut short by COVID. When moving to Loveland, Bowers found himself in a much different environment where he was “landlocked” and “far away from water” which he said used to surround him in Halifax and Boston. Instead of going out on the water, Bowers and some teammates were able to golf and enjoy the Colorado outdoors, compared to this year where most of the team gathers to “play cards and board games” to boost team camaraderie and be safe.
While Bowers continues to build his relationship with his always-changing teammates in Colorado, he is also able to spend time with his never-changing hometown teammates every summer in Halifax. When Bowers goes home, he is lucky enough to take the ice and practice with NHL stars such as Crosby, MacKinnon, Brad Marchand, Alex Killorn, and many others. Bowers described stepping onto the ice every practice with “arguably the three best players in the world” and doesn’t take for granted the opportunity to “skate, compete and learn” from his star-studded peers. He detailed being able to “see how they handle themselves on and off the ice” while being able to “pick their brains about certain things” and doesn’t shy away from the fact that those summers have definitely “helped me with my game.”
So while Shane Bowers and the rest of the Eagles played in an empty arena in that home opener against the Roadrunners, he was still able to be reminded of all of the people who had helped him develop in life when he looked across the ice. His former teammate served as a reminder of just how far he had come and how they are both still chasing their dreams.