I’ve written previously that my high school hockey coach was a man named Dave Bowen from Peterborough. A fabulous coach. A student of the game and someone who just dripped passion for it, he really made it fun for me and was one of those people who, looking back, pushed me to be more than I thought I was capable of. One of my fellow high school players, Dan McDougall, who was a pretty fair hockey player and played for a lot of different coaches in his younger years says Bowen was hands-down the best he ever had.
Anyway, “Mr. Bowen” as he was known to us back in high school, was also a history teacher and from my perspective, really, really good at that as well. It wasn’t about facts, dates, places. No, he wanted us to think. His signature phrase became “so what?” when one of us would toss out something as simple as a fact, a date or a place. I ate it up. I’ve always loved history and that is in part a tribute to the way he taught it.
Anyway, this all serves as background to one of the great one-liners I recall from my high school hockey / history days. We were at an after-school practice one day at the Kinsmen arena. I don’t know what the setup was but at one point, talk moved to that day’s history lesson in “Mr. Bowen’s” class and it had something to do with some element of history involving the British. I seem to recall it had something to do with the British coming down hard on someone, with the requisite amount of physical violence that often shapes history.
I remember Bowen being in the dressing room at the time and at a point where someone need to step in and show the lesson had left its mark on us intellectually, young growing minds that we were, Rod McGillis, who was a bit of character, summed things up nicely by chirping “man, those British guys were something else eh?!” Indeed Roddy. No “so what?” needed there. I still laugh every time I think about the smile that crossed Bowen’s face when Roddy said it.
On a similar note, I remember Bill Wasson who like McGillis was a year older than I, chafing at the fact that he had lost marks on his history essay on “Henery VIII”. Yes, in the age when spelling and grammar checkers were the grey matter attached to the hand attached to the pen writing the essay, Bill’s own eye had neglected to catch the spelling error (which he had at least spelled consistently throughout the essay) in the subject’s name.
I don’t think Wasson or McGillis were ever threats to win a Rhodes Scholarship but they were solid parts of “Mr. Bowen’s teams”. Wasson was a hard-nosed defenceman who could score and was a leader. He had character and when we were in big games, he wanted to win. McGillis was a very talented player with a really heavy shot. Funny as hell and a free-spirit in the room, he too was pretty serious about winning on the ice. I hear his name from time to time via friends and family in Peterborough and he is still associated with the game. He had several brothers who were also great players.