It has been quite the year for 25-year-0ld Madison Bowey. It may have taken three different teams, two 30+ hour drives and a long stay on the newly-implemented taxi squad, but the former Stanley Cup champion is finally ‘at home’ with the Canucks.
Following the conclusion of his two-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings last season, the Winnipeg product hit the open market as a free agent for the first time of his career. Despite signing season not quite going exactly according to plan, the always upbeat Bowey has finally found a home with the Vancouver Canucks.
But as the defensive rearguard says, getting there wasn’t exactly by way of a linear trajectory.
“To be honest, the past few months have really been quite a whirlwind,” Bowey told Game On. “Obviously, with the pandemic, the uncertainty of this season and free agency was a little different than you might have originally imagined. So to help speed up the quarantine process, I ended up driving down to Anaheim on a PTO (professional tryout). The goal there was just to get into the States and hope to see more opportunities open up for me quarantine-wise.”
Yes, that’s right, Bowey made the 30+ hour hike from Winnipeg down Interstate-15 to Orange County, California. And truth be told, the gamble did pay off.
“I ended up practicing a few times and then played a game with the San Diego Gulls,” Bowey expanded. “We were in talks with Anaheim about getting a contract there, but then Chicago called and offered a two-year deal. That was big for my agent (Richard Evans) and I, so we took it and I was back on the road again. I basically drove all the way across America to get to Chicago. I quarantined and went to Rockford for a few days and then got the call up to the Blackhawks and the rest is kind of history there.”
This time, however, the right-shooting blueliner had some company along for his second 30-hour drive of the short season.
“My girlfriend (Taylor) and dog (Harley) came down when I was in Anaheim,” he said. “They flew to L.A. and they were there quarantining with me. I guess you can say the family all came together three months ago and then we made that drive over to Chicago. Getting that support from back home – especially away from the rink – helps keep you busy and keeps your mind off the negatives. When you’re not playing it gets tough and you get frustrated, but having them around has really been huge on this journey. They’re headed back to Winnipeg now but I am in a much better situation, personally, and that support has been awesome.”
In Chicago, Bowey found himself serving as a player on the team’s newly implemented ‘taxi squad’, to which he practiced with the team but didn’t get to experience much game time. Although able to suit up in one contest with the Hawks, Bowey made his presence felt, collecting an assist and finishing with a positive plus/minus ranking.
“Being in Chicago was awesome,” Bowey laughed. “Just living alongside some of those veterans like Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Patty Kane, it was quite the experience. I was obviously hoping that the opportunity would kind of come there, but it just didn’t really work out as they had a goal of playing their younger prospects this season – which was totally fair. It was a long couple months there just skating, working out and training while living the taxi squad life. But at the same time it was nice to be up in the NHL.”
But luckily for Bowey, the Vancouver Canucks came calling. On trade deadline day, the 25-year-old was shipped back to Canada to a team in much need of some fresh legs.
“We actually had a lot of talks with the Canucks in the offseason,” Bowey said. “I was hoping to get a deal done there before heading out at the start of the season, but things didn’t quite work out then. But now, I am beyond excited to be here. I think there is a lot of opportunity here for me that I can take advantage of and run with. I’m treating it as my last chance to really prove myself in this league and stick around for a long time. It’s just great to be back in Canada and I’m excited to get going with the Canucks’ organization here.”
Vancouver, as many know, had been struck hard with COVID and the P.1 variant over the past number of weeks. Seeing multiple games postponed, the club had nearly all of its active roster on the COVID-related absence list for the better part of two weeks.
Knowing a number of players within the organization, Bowey reached out in advance of travelling to B.C. just to get an overall feel of what kind of situation he would be walking into.
“Obviously knowing Holts (Braden Holtby) from Washington, I was able to check in with him and see how his kids and wife were doing,” he said. “I really didn’t realize how bad it was until a few days ago on our team call; it’s not pretty. That’s the scary thing about this virus, you don’t really know the long-term effects and how bad the symptoms may be. I think for me, it’s nice that I’m fresh and coming off the quarantine. So I’m just trying to stay ready here in the hotel with some workouts and durability training just to make sure that once my quarantine’s up I can go in there and help the team out.”
Playing their first game in 25 days, the Canucks surprised many with a 3-2 overtime victory over the North Division’s first-place Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday evening. Icing a squad that featured two defencemen with a combined 18 games of NHL experience will certainly see an upswing in knowledge and on-ice decision-making with Bowey’s addition to the lineup.
With just one day remaining on his mandatory seven-day quarantine, the former Winnipeg Wild AAA star is champing at the bit to get out of his hotel and back onto the ice. The Canucks’ coming schedule now sees 18 games in the next 29 days, so Bowey’s healthy lungs will certainly be put to the test.
“I think it’s a really good opportunity for me, as there are a lot of bodies that aren’t fully up to speed, which probably bodes well in my favour,” he said. “I’m here to prove something and I want to get as much opportunity as I can. I’m ready and just really looking forward to playing some meaningful hockey again. It has been tough, but these kinds of situations just make you stronger and just more prepared and more excited to take advantage of an opportunity.”
Much like that of many NHL superstars, I appears as though life has gone full-circle for Bowey, who now hopes to find regular NHL duties back in the place where he really made a name for himself. Captaining the Kelowna Rockets to the Ed Chynoweth Cup as Western Hockey League champions back in 2014-15, Bowey will look to build upon his familiarity of the landscape just down the road at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
“I love the B.C. lifestyle here, the positivity around the province is amazing,” he said. “I definitely feel more comfortable coming here, and not just that but knowing the guys on the team. I must know about 10 guys here that I have either skated with, played with or lived nearby in the offseason. It’s kind of like a homecoming for me. Vancouver is a team that I’ve always wanted to play for even growing up. I loved watching the Sedins play back in the day. I just can’t wait to get out there and make the most of this opportunity. It’s time to get this thing started.”