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NHL winger right at home on campus
By Nichole Cutler
Friday, February 25, 2005
No entourage. No limo. No leather jacket. No Gucci shades. No paparazzi. No autographs, unless you asked him of course.
Thirty-year-old Detroit Red Wings right wing and former UNH captain Mark Mowers enters the Whittemore Center Arena as if he's one of the players. With his hat turned backwards half off his head, skates in one hand and his Pop-Tart in the other, he chuckles, "This is my lunch."
After signing with Detroit as a free agent in August 2004, Mowers was back on campus skating with the UNH hockey team because of the lockout. It is evident that the players and coaches are elated to have him back. The hallway leading to the hockey locker room illustrates his many accomplishments throughout the years. One plaque reads, "All-American 1997-1998," and others display him as both a Red Wing and a Wildcat. But it's extremely apparent that he lets none of this go to his head.
In speaking about his former UNH team, he says his overall experience with his UNH family has made hockey fun for him.
"This pushed me to really want to go further and reach my goal. It was a fun time and it made me want to play even more," he says.
His fondest UNH memory is when he scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Boston University, sending them to the Frozen Four his senior year.
Mowers advises future NHL hopefuls to have as much fun as you can under certain parameters.
"Take hockey seriously, but enjoy it. The professional game changes hockey. The NHL is a business and there are a lot of head games. Always learn everyday, whether you agree with your coaches or not. Don't think you're bigger and better than the game."
Mowers' success has been beyond his wildest dreams. As a child it was something he had always dreamt of, but says that confidence was not in his court. He aspired to be in the NHL but never believed it to be feasible. For the future, ideally he would like to finish up his experience with the NHL or attain a coaching role here at UNH.
Team Manager Colin Shank feels that Mowers has already grasped that role and would be a wonderful addition as a Wildcat Coach. "He has a great affect on the program as a whole. Because he played here, he is familiar with the coaches and what the players have experience," said Shank.
Shank adds that he is able to relate to the players well and teach them through his experiences. "He is very well respected for what he has done here as a student athlete but also his success through his hockey career. He understands the game very well and is able to act as another coach."
In describing himself both on and off the ice, Mowers finds that his personality overlaps. He says, "I'm dependable offensively and defensively. I am also very loyal. At first I was going to say fun. My friends would call me a goofball . . . definitely."
His favorite food is "anything chocolate," he says. Whether it's chocolate brownies, cereals, or ice cream he loves to indulge in all kinds. "It used to be lasagna but now it's chocolate," he said. Besides chocolate, if he was on a deserted island the one thing he would bring was his pillow. "I love to sleep. If you don't have a pillow it's tough to get a good sleep. You could find food or a warm place, but not a pillow."
Mowers admits to being overly superstitious by doing everything in even numbers. "Say you did something good and I wanted to slap you five," he says as he provides a demonstration. "I would have to slap your hand twice. Not just one. Odd numbers are unlucky. I've never been an odd number."
Shank says that it is refreshing to be around Mowers, especially his capacity to be so down-to-earth after all the success he has obtained. "He gets along with the guys very well because he doesn't take himself too seriously and is able to joke around."
This may be due to the fact that Mowers says the greatest influences in his life have been his parents. He says they have kept the sport fun and this made him want to continue skating. They were always supportive of his decisions and let him do as he pleased when it came to sports. Mowers also says there were coaches that helped him along the way, especially with difficult decisions.
"I think he is similar to the people that Coach Umile tries to bring into his program. Mark realizes that he plays hockey for a living because he likes it and because he is good, but understands there is more to life," says Shank.
His life is his wife of five years, his two-year-old daughter Gracie, and the other addition to his family, his beagle-pug mix named Maddy. This is one of the main reasons he came home after being in Sweden playing for the Swedish Elite League. Loneliness crept in especially after the third week. His family couldn't be with him, his team was in last place, and all team meetings were held in Swedish even though the coaches knew English. He knew it was time to head back to the United States. "It got to the point where even going to the rink was depressing," he said.
Mowers admits to being a lot sloppier since he's gotten married. "I used to be very clean," he said, "but now I depend on my wife for a lot."
He also confesses that his biggest fear in life is failure. Not only in relation to his career as a professional hockey player, but also as a father.
"My biggest fear in life is failure, especially now that I'm a dad. I just want to be a good father," he said.
Mowers has promised that he would not pressure his daughter to play hockey. "Only if she wants to," he says. "She already loves the ice. We were walking on it today."
Currently residing in Newton, New Hampshire, he plans on going to Switzerland to play hockey there. He expresses his excitement in being back at UNH with the players and helping out for the playoffs. He may just stick it out in Europe and play for the AHL. He is uncertain of his future thus far. "Who knows if I'll have to make a career switch? It's a waiting game right now," he says.
While Mowers is waiting on his career, a lot of angry fans are out there waiting for their source of entertainment. Mowers feels that a lot of people are coming down on the players because it looks like they're being selfish by making so much money. He suggest to NHL fans to be aware of the facts before jumping to conclusions.
Mowers says, "Imagine if your boss came up to you and cut your paycheck by thirty percent, or said that instead of making $60,000 a year, you will now be making $40,000. The more you make, the more you spend. I understand cuts need to be made, but not so drastically."
The moment Mowers was notified of the lockout, he was skating with UNH. It wasn't a shock to him or his teammates. They all knew it was coming. "If they're willing to lose this whole season, what will stop them from losing another?" he said.
It's difficult for Mowers to stay in touch with his Red Wings teammates but mainly keeps in touch with Brendan Shanahan because he's the closest, currently living south of Boston. He is still in contact with about twenty of his teammates from his college days. He says it doesn't matter whom he still speaks with. "You know how guys are. Even if we don't see each other in months, we pick up right where we left off."
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