“I never really doubted I was going to be involved in sport,” says John Bower, who is joining Concordia as associate director of Student Athlete Services. “Hockey was my passion, though I loved baseball, too; even though I was never any good at it.”
Sport is written into Bower’s DNA. His grandfather, Johnny Bower, had a Hall of Fame career as a goaltender with the Toronto Maple Leafs. His father, also John Bower, was good enough to be drafted by the Washington Capitals.
After retiring, Bower’s grandfather spent 20 years working as a coach and scout for the Leafs. His grandson grew up hanging around Maple Leaf Gardens, watching practices, haunting the press box, and learning all there was to know about the world of sport.
The youngest Bower began his professional career as a sports broadcaster in Detroit, covering junior hockey games for the Plymouth Whalers, before being hired as the sports information and events officer at his alma mater, the University of Windsor. Other than a brief stint working for the Commonwealth Games, he has been involved in Canadian university sports ever since. In the past two years, he has served as director of University Programs for the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ). “I really enjoyed working with the RSEQ. The team was amazing,” he says. “But this was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down; to come back and work in a university again. I like being around the student athletes, the teams, the rush of the day-to-day.”
In his job, Bower will be charged with providing support for Concordia’s coaches and the student athletes, “helping them to attain the best results possible, both academically and on the field.” As Bower explains, ensuring that Concordia’s athletes maintain a balanced commitment to their studies as well as their sport presents an exciting challenge. “Our students are here to be students first, and if they have the opportunity to compete at a high level, to push themselves beyond their limits both academically and athletically, then we’re meeting our mandate,” he says.
During his time at RSEQ, Bower worked with Concordia’s Director of Recreation and Athletics, Katie Sheahan, on various projects. He says they share the same values, something that was an important part of his decision to come to Concordia.
For her part, Sheahan says she’s pleased Bower has agreed to take on the new role. “His experience in inter-university sport administration and development, together with his background in communications, will be a tremendous asset to Concordia’s efforts to provide an outstanding student-athlete experience,” she said at the time of his hiring.
Bower learned all about what it takes to succeed — the right drive, the right attitude — during those childhood days at Maple Leaf Gardens. He witnessed first-hand the respect earned by his grandfather, who won the Stanley Cup four times with the Leafs, after toiling away in the American Hockey League for more than a decade.
“My grandfather used to slap Eaton’s catalogues around his legs. He didn’t have his first pair of skates until he was 14. He grew up in the depression in northern Saskatchewan in a poor-as-dirt farm family," he said.
Johnny Bower was known as the hardest working player on the Leafs. “He was the first person on the ice, and the last person off the ice. He used to get mad during practice when he would give up a goal,” his grandson says. No surprise then that the value of hard work, in life as in sport, has always been pretty clear to the youngest John Bower.
“I was able to learn a lot about never giving up, and always fighting until the bitter end,” he says. “No matter how bad things get, there are always solutions. You can find them. It takes hard work and dedication, and you can get there.”
Since the position of associate director of Student Athlete Services at Concordia is a new one, Bower says it may take some time for him to figure out how to best fill it, but he’s eager to get started. “How can I give the best resources and support to our student athletes and to our coaches? That’s my mandate, and over time that will be developed and clarified, because this is a new position, and it falls in line with my values about sport and about life,” he said.
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