Corey Cowick had just stepped off the practice ice in Kanata when he checked his cellphone.
Ten text messges?
Must be some kind of mistake.
"I don't usually get ten in an entire day," Cowick said with a laugh.
This was no ordinary day. At 9 a.m. on Thursday, Cowick had signed a three-year, two-way, entry-level deal with the hometown Ottawa Senators. The club sent out a late-morning release about the signing, and now the cellphone of the Gloucester native was lighting up.
Cowick had actually first signed the deal the night before, at the home of his agent, Rolland Hedges, but a minor typo delayed the official signing until the morning. Morning, night, whatever, just getting the deal done was a weight off the nicely rehabilitated shoulder of the former Ottawa 67's winger. Cowick had been training all summer with several Senators, including Chris Kelly, Chris Neil, Matt Carkner and Mark Borowiecki under team strength coach Chris Schwarz.
Now, he was officially among the ranks.
Now that 21st birthday celebration, which began last Sunday, morphs neatly into a family celebration of his first NHL contract.
"I tried to keep it out of my mind, for the most part. I'm training with guys on the team, I'm training with the pros, trying to get a professional mentality, and the only thing holding me back from being a pro was a piece of paper," Cowick says. "So, once the paper was signed and out of the way, it definitely was a relief." While Cowick had hoped to get something done sooner, prospects brightened when Mike Hoffman signed with Ottawa a couple of weeks ago. Hoffman, like Cowick, was a late bloomer, passed over as an 18-year-old, selected by the Senators in the later rounds of the 2009 draft: Hoffman in the fifth round, Cowick in the sixth.
Cowick can probably bank on being down on the Senators' American Hockey League farm in Binghamton this fall, but he wants to make that choice as difficult as possible for Ottawa management.
"It's a progressive scale for me. I want to jump every step as it comes," Cowick said.
"Go to rookie camp and get an invite to the main camp, from the main camp get a berth in an exhibition game and see where that staircase leads. If it leads to Binghamton, I'll take that mindset to Binghamton, where I approach every day -- get better, get better -- until it's my time to get called up. It might be this year, it might be next year. Or it might be in two years, but hopefully it will be sooner rather than later." At the rookie development camp last month, Cowick impressed player development director Randy Lee, among others, with his maturity and work ethic.
As Corey said, "The one thing you don't have to worry about me, ever, is my work ethic." Fans of the 67's know about that.
A few years ago, the 67's rescued Cowick's hockey career, and he paid them back in spades. After a frustrating 2007-08 season with the Ontario Hockey League Oshawa Generals, Cowick was close to quitting hockey, considering full-time enrolment at university, until 67's GM and head coach Brian Kilrea acquired him in a trade. Along with daily effort and physical play, Cowick responded with a 34-goal season, which led to the draft selection by Ottawa.
All was well until Cowick blew his shoulder out from a hit during an OHL exhibition game in late August of last year. It cost him fourth months of rehab, but he bounced back with a strong finish to the OHL season, including four playoff goals in the first-round win over Niagara, featuring two short-handed goals and the game-winner in the Game 5 clincher. He led the 67's with nine playoff goals and 27 penalty minutes.
Cowick reports the shoulder is better than ever, as long he stays away from those Little League ball players.
"The only time I had a little bit of stiffness was throwing a baseball with the Little League junior team that just won the provincials," he said.
That would be the Orléans Red Sox, coached by Corey's father, Dwayne. Corey is a third coach on the team, but provincial rules restricted the team to two coaches on the bench during the tournament in Ottawa last week, so Corey watched from the stands.
The Red Sox are scheduled to leave today for Lethbridge, Alta., and the national tournament. Corey would have gone, too, but has hockey camp commitments next week.
Oddly enough, Lethbridge was also the host years ago when the Orléans major team Corey played for reached the nationals, a team also coached by his father. Corey still keeps in touch with his Lethbridge billets.
He was Corey Cowick the catcher in those days, until knee surgery turned him into a centre-fielder by the time he played for the Ottawa-Nepean Canadians, following the footsteps of his dad with that organization.
Now, it's the footsteps of his uncle, Bruce Cowick of Victoria (former Philadelphia Flyer, Washington Capital and St. Louis Blue) Corey would like to follow -- into the NHL.
Subscribers can read previous columns by Wayne Scanlan at ottawacitizen.com . He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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