by Jashvina Shah
Cassidy Bowes’ path to Michigan started in 2015-16. That was the season he broke his finger, and it was also the season his finger was cut open by a skate. The injuries sidelined Bowes for four months. It forced him to repeat a year at the Pursuit of Excellence, a hockey academy his parents paid to send him to.
“[That] made me go back and play another year of midget which wasn’t the worst idea, but then again my parents had to pay for me to play another year of hockey,” Bowes said. “So that was always tough for me, so that’s kind of where I decided they wouldn’t pay for me anymore.”
When he started the recruiting process, Bowes visited some Boston schools and some Ivy League programs. Bowes said he takes school seriously and wanted a good hockey program at a good school where he could receive a scholarship.
Enamored by the city of Ann Arbor, Mich., the campus, the new coaching staff and the stellar academics and hockey, Bowes chose Michigan.
“I think it’s a really great balance,” Bowes said. “Obviously [Michigan’s] hockey past is, you don’t have to speak much about that. The few years in the past they haven’t been so hot, but they’re on the rebuild. They’ve won the most NCAA championships and I just figured what can go wrong. Worst-case scenario I’m getting a degree from a great school with a scholarship, so that always helps.
While Bowes spent several years in WHL territory while he was at Pursuit of Excellence, he had attended North Dakota hockey camps during the summers. Bowes was just eight at the time of his first camp, but it exposed him to college hockey. While at Pursuit of Excellence, Bowes was in WHL country.
“After that and after being in Kelowna and watching the WHL, I kind of decided that I like the feel more of college hockey,” Bowes said. “It gives you more time to develop and go pro, whereas if you go Major Junior you only have until you’re 20 to break into the NHL.”
Bowes, slated to attend Michigan, began playing hockey in his backyard rink. Back then Bowes skated with his older brother and his brother’s friends. Like all older skaters, they tried getting Bowes–and eventually his sister–to play goalie.
“They’d probably push me around a bit because they’re five years older than me but it’s always fun,” Bowes said. “Sometimes my friends would come out too, scrimmage the older guys and see if we can challenge them.”
Bowes later followed his brother to Pursuit of Excellence to improve his skating. His mom and sister moved out for the first year to help with the transition, and each year he saw his family less and less. While at the academy, Bowes worked on his shooting, skating and passing.
“It was a really great experience to be able to move out of the traditional minor hockey associations into an academy,” Bowes said.
He then followed his older brother, who played for Salmon Arm the first year Bowes moved to Kelowna, to the BCHL.
“He always would talk about playing college hockey and how the BCHL was more of a skilled league, so we wanted to stay out of Alberta for how physical it was,” Bowes said. “Even though I guess I’ve developed pretty physically, but I just think the BC league has more opportunities.”
Bowes was called up to Penticton in 2016-17 and appeared in several playoff games en route to the Vees’ championship. After the win, he was drafted by the Lincoln Stars in the seventh round of the USHL draft but chose to stay in the BCHL. Through 32 games this season, Bowes has eight goals and 13 assists. Over his time with Penticton, Bowes learned to be more consistent and work on his defensive zone to help his offensive game.
“There’s just no better junior spot in Canada,” Bowes said. “The USHL is a great league, but I think our team could compete in that league if we were in the right location to play there. Our coach is great in Freddy Harbinson, great arena, great town. The fans here really love hockey so we can’t ask for much more.”
Bowes, who said his shot is his best on-ice skill, is working on his defensive zone positioning this season.
“I have a lot more to give than what I did in the past,” Bowes said. “I probably set myself back a few years by not working has hard as I could’ve, and then I finally realized that I have a lot more to give. Guys caught up to me and I needed to make up some ground on them.”
Photo credit: Cherie Morgan Photography