The Herald heads beyond the ice and into the locker room with three of our very own members of the Newfoundland Growlers, the hottest club in the ECHL.
If you had told hockey purists here in Newfoundland and Labrador that an ECHL franchise, making their league debut in 2018-19, would lead the league in points after three months, they’d probably laugh and scold you on your overzealous aspirations of what can be a long, long timetable for on-ice greatness.
When The Herald sat down with National Hockey League vet and Fermeuse native Ryane Clowe back in September, the newly appointed coach of the upstart Newfoundland Growlers was cautiously optimistic on the status of his squad.
“I think we’re going to have two standards with this team,” Clowe said. “Number one is you’re going to try to develop these players and that’s a big part of my job, and we want to be a premier team in the ECHL. Winning is a big part of development in my opinion.”
The minor affiliates are, after all, a fickle and tricky beast to predict. Players come and go as needed, development and maturation often come as priority over a winning culture. All that and the acceptable pains of a new organization were more than enough excuses to justify a rocky start to pro-hockey returning to the rock this October. No one would be shocked or appalled if history repeated itself.
Yet, here we are. Christmas has come and gone and the Growlers (as of press time), sit atop the ECHL standings.
Buoyed by the coaching of Clowe and assistant John Snowden, the at times exceptional play of goaltenders Michael Garteig and Mario Culina, the fast rise of young upstarts like Brady Ferguson, Scott Pooley and Giorgio Estephan, and a core made up of a slew of born and bred salty Newfoundlanders, and the Growlers success shouldn’t truly be that surprising.
Locker Room Culture
The Herald caught up with Newfoundland Growlers players (and proud islanders themselves) Adam Pardy, Marcus Power and team captain James Melindy to talk the squad’s early successes, forming a hockey culture on and off the ice, and roaring through the ECHL as a loud and proud advocate of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“There’s a really good vibe in our room right now,” shares Pardy, who competed in over 340 games in the National Hockey League.
“Our culture is really good. We’ve been able to set a certain standard for each other, what we expect out of each other both on and off the ice.”
Beginning his pro career with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL, Pardy has seen the bright lights of the big show, suiting up for NHL clubs in Calgary, Dallas, Buffalo, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Nashville.
The Bonavista native has seen the highs and lows of the hockey world, and looks forward to leading the young group towards success both on and off the ice here at home.
Finding Ways to Win
“We’re off to a hot start,” he says. “You win some games and guys start feeling good and confident and it keeps a smile on everybody’s face and it makes it easy to work hard when you’re able to win games. You find ways to win games in different ways.”
Twenty-five year old Marcus Power was the first name announced as a Growlers roster signing. The St. John’s native spent four years playing at the University of Prince Edward Island and three with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL.
“It was definitely an honour being the first person signed,” Power explains.
“I’m really thankful for that. Initially I was the only guy on the team and now we have a whole roster of guys. We’re really gelling well and having success on the ice. We’re pretty proud of that.”
A draftee of the Phoenix Coyotes, James Melindy brings near 300 games of American Hockey League and ECHL experience to his role of captain for the upstart Growlers, a role he takes extremely seriously. He’s not afraid to step up if needed, dropping the gloves against rival clubs to kick-start a wonky offense or boost bench morale.
The grizzled defenseman and proud Goulds native – still a young player in his own right – welcomed the role as a locker room general, feeding off of the support from the likes of Coach Clowe and Pardy.
“You can’t replace his experience,” Melindy says of Clowe, the Growlers coach who laced skates for the likes of San Jose, New York and New Jersey. “He had a tremendous NHL career and two years coaching in New Jersey and we’re fortunate enough to get him here.
Bringing Back the Game
“Guys are coming in to work, to be professional and you know when you step in the dressing room that we have a job to do, we get our work done. There’s a high standard here that we started at the beginning of the year and anything less than that is unacceptable. That starts with our ownership, with Dean and Glenn and how much they’ve been committed to bringing hockey back here to Newfoundland.”
If the early months of success are any indication, the Growlers are set to build on our homegrown culture of athletic success and provincial patriotism, becoming a fixture of our sports identity.
For more stats, tickets and a complete game schedule visit nlgrowlers.com