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From Newfoundland to the NHL - Clowe makes his mark with the Sharks

His father Troy owns a few boats back home and the 24-year-old San Jose Sharks winger from Fermeuse would probably be a fisherman if pro hockey hadn't worked out. "It's long hours with no sleep when you're on the water," Clowe said this week from California. "If you had to experience what it's like out there, you'd know it's harder work (than playing hockey).

"It's a little tough but a lot of people back home love to do that."

Clowe knows that first-hand because he spent a few summers helping his father haul in shrimp and crab from the Atlantic Ocean.

Experiences like that almost make what he's doing now seem easy. Clowe has scored 11 goals in 22 games for the Sharks this season and has earned a spot on the team's top line alongside league MVP Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

That's heady stuff for a guy who hadn't scored a goal in 18 career NHL games before this year.

And his solid play hasn't gone unnoticed by people back home in Newfoundland. The 4½-hour time difference has been keeping many up all hours of the night to follow his progress.

"You'd be surprised how many people are watching," said Clowe. "I still get e-mails every day and calls after games, even if it ends at 3:30 in the morning there.

"That's what I love about coming from back home. You get so much support."

Other Newfoundlanders in the NHL include Daniel Cleary of the Detroit Red Wings and Michael Ryder of the Montreal Canadiens.

Clowe has a place in St. John's and spends every off-season there. He and Ryder are friends and often skate together and play golf during the summer.

He doesn't know Cleary but is clearly proud of what the three have accomplished.

"I'm glad to see them doing so well," said Clowe.

They've all faced a tougher path than most in making it to the NHL.

Fermeuse is a town of 500 people located a little over an hour from St. John's. That's where Clowe got his start in minor hockey, playing there until he moved to St. John's at the age of 14.

He was cut by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Moncton Wildcats as an 18-year-old and played in the Maritime junior league until being extended a mid-season tryout by Rimouski of the QMJHL.

Clowe put up 25 points in the 32 games he played for the Oceanic that season. The NHL wasn't really on his radar until the Sharks selected him in the sixth round of the 2001 draft.

"I think I was looking at having a chance to play in the minor pro leagues," he said. "That was more my goal.

"But once I got drafted by the Sharks, I knew then that there was a chance."

He soon moved up to the American Hockey League's Cleveland Barons and led that team in scoring during his second season - the year of the NHL lockout.

It helped Clowe earn a spot on a very talented Sharks team last season. But he had trouble getting his game going and spent the year bouncing between the minors and the NHL.

"Last year I did a little too much standing around and watching and not really playing," he said. "The whole, 'I can't believe I'm in the NHL thing."'

He worked on his skating and focused on being more consistent this year. While the season got off to a slow start because of foot and groin injuries, he's been hotter than the California sun since being activated from the disabled list two weeks ago.

Clowe has a physical edge to his game and spends much of the time in the offensive zone battling for position in front of the goal.

He's also not afraid to drop the gloves and defend his teammates, judging by his five fighting majors this year.

"I just try to finish my hits and kind of play a physical game too," he said. "Sometimes it involves fighting - it's a nice way to get the team going.

"I've always done a little bit of fighting."

Clowe's been fighting for recognition all the way along.

The Sharks feel like they got a steal with a player they drafted 175th overall. While they obviously like all the scoring Clowe's be doing, coach Ron Wilson has been most impressed with his determination and commitment to defence.

The solid two-way play has given Clowe the chance to take a regular shift with the best two players on a Stanley Cup contender.

"That's why we're giving him the opportunity," Wilson told reporters this week. "There have been times when he loses battles in our end. That's the first and foremost thing you've got to learn as a young player is about getting the job done in our own end.

"He's doing that and taking advantage."

Clowe admits that he's even surprised himself.

The NHL was once a far-off dream for a young boy in what felt like a far-off place.

"It was always what I wanted to do but I didn't know if it was possible," said Clowe. "I just kind of kept getting a little bit better every year and improving.

"You never know what might happen."


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