THUNDER BAY – After growing up playing minor hockey in Thunder Bay, Kate Clower went south of the border to continue her career.
While she was able to go on to play on a full-ride scholarship at Minnesota State University in Mankato from 2002 to 2006, a number of her teammates hit a dead end once their aged out of the youth level.
Clower will be taking on a role that is expected to help the current generation continue their careers, after she was named the next head coach to take the reins of the Lakehead Thunderwolves women’s club program.
“It just gives them that extra couple of years to play. We just love the sport,” Clower said on Tuesday at the news conference announcing her hiring.
“There’s nothing like the camaraderie outside of the hockey world so it gives them that experience and enhances their whole university experience. When I went through it, it was something I’ll never forget. If I can give them that same type of experience through their college career I think that would be great.”
Clower is the first full-time hire for the program, after it had been run by volunteers since its inception within the last five years. Previous bench boss Dan Calvert had led the team to consecutive American Collegiate Hockey Association Division 2 titles, earning coach of the year recognition this past season.
Athletic director Tom Warden credited Calvert and manager Leah Vanderwey for playing a vital role in the founding of the program and putting it in a position where it can move forward, adding they agreed with the decision to hire a full-time coach.
Warden believes Clower’s experience will help her connect with the team. She has worked as a coach with the Thunder Bay Queens organization and the Norwest Minor Hockey Association since returning home.
“I think anybody who has played at a high level and anyone who understands the world of academics as well as the world of sport knows putting those two together at times can be difficult,” Warden said.
“I think the women on her team and in her program will appreciate that she has been through a lot of the things they’re going through. There is a lot of responsibility when you are a student-athlete, not just with the sport but in the classroom. I think she’ll have a good way of being able to associate her experience and help them.”
When asked about whether there are plans to elevate the team to a varsity program, Warden said the current goal is sustainability.
“I think the club program is what fits right now. It works not only for our pool of hockey players that we have here but also for our university,” Warden said. “Our plan is to make sure that we’re the most secure and most stable financial club program that we can be.”
Along with being head coach, Clower takes on the title of the program’s coordinator. Warden said hiring the position includes an expectation to work with the corporate community to help increase the program’s budget.
For Clower, that means hopefully easing the financial cost for players, some of whom are forced to work a part-time job on top of school to be able to pay to play.