Far too many young men are forced to make a choice between hockey ambitions and pursuing an education. University of Lethbridge Pronghorns goaltender Scott Bowles never saw it that way – the two were always linked.
"With my parents both being teachers, education was always important," the second-year, Creston, B.C., native says. "Still, it was a decision that was left in my hands. I was only told that school would be important at one time or another and to factor that in."
Bowles entered the Western Hockey League as a 17 year old, opting not to pursue a possible education opportunity with an American college or university. The WHL is considered the fastest route to professional hockey and it allowed Bowles that opportunity. All the while, he knew that through the league's education program, every year he played in the WHL would turn into a year of Canadian post-secondary education if the pro dream didn't transpire when he was done.
"That's one of the biggest decisions you have to make when you're 16 or 17," says Bowles. "Are you going to go the NCAA route or give that up and try the WHL. With their package, it was good enough for me where I figured I could play four years and still have my schooling waiting for me when I was done."
Bowles played two-plus seasons with both the Calgary Hitmen and Prince George Cougars and when the pro game did not come knocking, he quickly turned his attention to finding the right fit in terms of a city and a school.
"He came in for a tour and spent a weekend with us," Pronghorns head coach Greg Gatto says of the recruitment pitch they made to Bowles. "I remember saying at the end of the weekend, he didn't say a word the whole time, and my comment was, 'I don't think we're going to get him', and a week later he phoned and told us he was coming."
Knowing Pronghorns Devin Featherstone and Kris Deines helped in the process but what swayed Bowles on coming to Lethbridge was the combination of the city and the University's programming options.
"I just really liked the set-up, I liked the fact the school offered the courses I wanted to take and I liked the size of the school. I wanted a smaller school where I felt I'd be more comfortable," he says. "Coming from Prince George, a city that's about the same size, I felt it'd be a very smooth transition."
It was, both on the ice and in the classroom. Bowles had a stellar first season, earning the team's most valuable player award, and has followed that up with another outstanding season; helping lead the Horns back into Canada West playoffs. Despite losing in the first round to UBC, Bowles played extremely well, making 50 saves in a 4-3 triple-overtime loss in Game 3 of the series.
Educationally, he started studying German but by taking advantage of the liberal education ideal at the U of L, quickly found his interests lay elsewhere.
"I found that environmental science might be a better path and it's going well," he says. "I really like my profs and the program offers a sort of mix and variety of a bunch of different sciences which, seeing as how I have a hard time narrowing down what I want to do, is still nice to take a range of courses."
Naturally, given his success and a recognition that goalies often hit their stride later in their careers, one has to wonder if pro hockey might finally come calling for Bowles. He doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about that possibility.
"Now that I've decided to go to university, school is definitely at the forefront," he says. "If things work out in pro hockey, then they do and we'll look into it but right now I'm committed to being here and finishing my degree."
GET THE FACTS
• Bowles had 13 wins in the regular season and was named Canada West Hockey – Husky WHL Graduate of the Month for November
• His best WHL season was in 2005-06 when he had 26 wins with Prince George
• Bowles' mother is an elementary school principal while his father, a teacher by trade, is a performance coach for Pacific Sport
• Bowles has a younger sister currently attending Okanagan College