2013 – Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen

As boyhood dreams go…sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t.
In Joe Bowen’s case, his dream at age 16, was to be the next Johnny Bower, tending goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now, this wasn’t such a far-fetched idea given that he was already a goalie in high school. With a little encouragement who knows how he might have developed as a goaltender. However, a negative story in his hometown Sudbury newspaper was all it took to turn a dream into a disaster. According to Joe, the article began, “Roger Dorey lost a contact. Brian Dickey broke his glasses. But in the end it was rookie goaltender Joe Bowen who had trouble seeing.” He even went on to say “Bowen was bombed for the fifth straight time Wednesday night and as a result the Sudbury High Wolves lost the game the forwards had won.”
“Can you imagine, going to school the next day? I was devastated.”
The next year, Joe decided he wasn’t going to play. However, after being encouraged to return by Kay Whitmore Sr. he did return and made the All-Star team. And then the hard reality set in. “I wasn’t good enough. I knew that and the newspaper article if nothing else, ended my aspirations of replacing JB in the Toronto net.”
So the next chapter in his life began.
His mother encouraged him to sign up for Foster Hewitt’s Broadcasting School, because of his “loud voice and I broadcast games out on the driveway like everybody else did”. Joe listened to the sales pitch but in the end followed the advice of his late father who wanted him to have a university education. So it was off to the University of Windsor where he took the Communications Arts course and got heavily involved in the student radio station.
After graduation it was back to Sudbury where he eventually got his first real break in broadcasting, calling the games of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sudbury Wolves on radio. That’s where he called games involving the likes of Randy Carlyle and Ron Duguay.
His first venture into professional hockey came in January, 1980 when he was hired to do the morning show on CHNS radio in Halifax. Coincidentally CHNS had also acquired the broadcast rights to the Nova Scotia Voyageurs of the American Hockey League and Joe became the voice of the Voyageurs for two and a half years before a surprise call from Len Bramson of Telemedia Radio offered him the opportunity to call Maple Leaf games. Joe didn’t hesitate to accept the offer and has been the mainstay of Leafs broadcasts ever since.
Now, do the math. Had Joe Bowen’s dream of being the next Johnny Bower worked out, he might have had a brief professional career of 10 or 12 years. On the other hand, his career choice of being the voice of the Maple Leafs has lasted 31 years and counting.
….by Fred Walker