Brad McGowan earned both a major (business management) and a minor (criminology) during his four years at university, so doing his homework is something he is accustomed to.
Therefore it should come as little surprise, that when it came time to narrow down his post-university hockey pursuits after graduating from the Rochester Institute of Technology this past spring, he once again did his research.
And what the 25-year-old from Langley came up with was the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL.
The Road Warriors play out of Greenville, South Carolina and the ECHL is one level below the American Hockey League.
There were several suitors for McGowan after his collegiate season ended in April.
But nursing a wrist injury prevented him from practising — he still played — so McGowan decided to wait on his decision.
“There were a lot of things that went into (the decision), like which teams get a lot of guys called up to the next level, if you can get a tryout before camp with an AHL team,” he explained.
“Greenville is a great place and their coach — when I talked to him — seemed really intent on getting guys moved up (to the next level).”
That’s compared so some coaches who are just concerned with winning hockey games and not necessarily helping players move to the next level.
The Road Warriors are the ECHL affiliate of the New York Rangers and the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack. Vancouver Canucks forward Alex Burrows played for Greenville in 2002-03, and more recently, Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot played for Greenville in 2010-11.
McGowan will attend training camp with the Wolf Pack at the end of September. If he fails to stick with the AHL club, he would report to Greenville’s training camp, but because his contract is with Greenville, any AHL team is free to pick him up on a tryout at any point during the season.
“I am just happy he was able to secure a spot to try and move up the ladder now professionally,” said Wayne Wilson, the head coach of the RIT Tigers, who recruited McGowan from the BCHL four years ago.
“This is a good starting point (and) I am excited about his future.”
McGowan, who graduated from Walnut Grove Secondary in 2008, capped off his BCHL career with the Surrey Eagles in 2010/11.
That season, he was third in league scoring with 36 goals and 89 points and was the Coastal Conference’s most sportsmanlike player.
And McGowan has been everything Wilson expected during his four years at the private New York university.
“Very skilled, great hands, great hockey mind, he is very smart on the ice and he brought a lot of leadership,” Wilson said.
McGowan had 18 points his freshman year, upped that to 25 his sophomore season, and then after dipping to 21 points his junior year, rebounded nicely to finish with 46 points as a senior.
He leaves the Tigers tied for first in games played with 150 and is fifth all-time in goals (46), sixth in points (110) and ninth in assists (64).
He also helped the Tigers go into the record books this past spring as they became the first-ever 16-seed to knock off a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
McGowan admitted it was a tough transition from junior A to college hockey as the schedule dropped from 60 games to 38.
Instead of playing three or four times per week like in junior, college hockey is two games every weekend. So when a player got on a hot streak, they would have to wait a full week to play again and conversely, when slumping, that player had to wait to try and break their drought.
“If you are hot, it is hard to stay hot, but if you are cold, it is easy to stay cold,” he said.
The ECHL schedule is 72 games while the AHL schedule is 76 games.
To prepare, McGowan is spending his summer here in Langley working out with Impact Hockey Development. At the university level, a lot of the training is about getting stronger, but McGowan is shifting his focus to cardio.
“I still want to be strong, but you have to be more prepared to grind it out over a long schedule,” he said.
There is also added emphasis on cardio since at the ECHL level, teams only dress 10 forwards — compared to 12 at the other levels — so there is plenty of ice time for a skilled forward like McGowan.
And wherever he winds up, McGowan knows he is lucky.
“Even though it (may not be) the NHL, I am still getting paid to play hockey; that’s pretty cool.”