Last year, when Canada was winning a silver medal in women’s hockey at the World University Games in Russia, there was another Amherst connection to the team.
Not bad for a town of 9,500.
While Terry Rhindress, who now lives in Riverview, N.B., was an assistant coach with the team and Sackville’s Abby Beale was a player, another person with Amherst roots was also a member of the coaching staff.
Greg Bowles moved to Ontario when he was in his teens, but each summer he returns to the Amherst area to spend time at the family cottage at Amherst Shore.
“It was a life-changing event for sure going to Russia,” he said. “I remember one time during the gold medal team when I peeked over my shoulder and took it all in. It still leaves goosebumps on my neck.”
This past summer, he joined Rhindress again, this time in Calgary with university sports Under-22 team during its development camp.
Bowles, who is 47, has been coaching since he graduated from university in 1995. He worked with a professional hockey school for many years and has two daughters, one is 23 and the other 21. He said he didn’t see a lot of elite coaching for women’s hockey and saw it as a growth opportunity.
“Every time we were doing elite planning for our hockey schools, I always asked the question ‘what about girls?” he said. “Twenty-five years ago, there was a feeling that was sort of ‘do we need it?’ We had elite girls practising with the boys, but there are enough good ones, why don’t we set up a women’s stream.”
Bowles went to work for the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees program about a decade ago, working as a coaching consultant. The coach, at the time, had moved to Ottawa from Montreal and didn’t know a lot of people. Bowles’ name was suggested, and he went to work with the organization.
Bowles has also coached minor hockey at the bantam, midget and junior women’s hockey.
Today, he’s the head scout and assistant coach for the Gee-Gees.
He has enjoyed working in women’s hockey because there seems to be a better connection between the coach and the players, although he noted it is improving on the men’s side as well.
He has seen tremendous strides in women’s hockey in Atlantic Canada and noted the attention that’s now being paid to the midget girl’s hockey league in Nova Scotia. He said there are “some big fish, in a smaller pond” who are looking to move on to play in the junior women’s league in Ontario.
Bowles said he works with coaches in that league to help players make the transition to the higher level and he’s finding more coaches are contacting him to talk about players from Nova Scotia playing junior in Ontario.
“I'm always looking forward to giving back in some way to my province. Although I’m not here, I’m working to help these players get to the next level,” he said.
Bowles’ father, who was born in Amherst, worked in the military and the family moved around. His brother was born in Summerside, P.E.I. and he was born in Trenton, Ont. but the family moved back to Amherst when he was very young.
From there it was off to Oromocto, N.B. and other locations.
“The tree always grows, but the roots are the same. When someone asks me where I’m from I tell them Amherst. I don’t have a birth certificate that says so, I often value like a precious stone my days at the shore or at the farm in Truemanville,” he said. “Once you hit Moncton, you can smell the salt in the air it just moves me.”