Playing for his hometown team in the BCHL has been somewhat of an advantage for Chilliwack Chiefs forward Ethan Bowen.
The 17-year-old, who just started his second full BCHL season, was born and raise in Chilliwack, so he recognizes he hasn’t had to deal with some of the challenges that face most junior hockey players.
“It’s really hard to leave home when you’re 16-year-old,” said Bowen. “Playing in Chilliwack has made it a lot easier just to wrap my head around everything. I’m still going to the same school and practicing at the same rinks. I love it here.”
With most hockey players, family plays a huge role in their development and Bowen was no different. He credits his parents and his older brother, who played for the Chiefs as well as a handful of Western Hockey League (WHL) teams, as key influences on him.
“My family had a huge impact on me,” said Bowen. “My dad loves to watch me play. He’s always supporting me out there. I don’t think he’s ever missed a game. They all support me a lot.
“I also learned a lot from my brother Ryan. He helped me get used the junior life and told me what to expect. He really helped me transition my game from midget to junior, so I’m grateful for that.
Up until his second year of Bantam, Bowen played in the Chilliwack Minor Hockey system, which allowed him to grow as a player and person, while getting to do so alongside his close friends.
“Every single team I played on in Chilliwack, I always had good coaches and good teammates,” he said. “It made it really enjoyable growing up and playing hockey there.”
Once he started to separate himself from his peers, Bowen left the Chilliwack system and played his last year of Bantam for Yale Academy. The following season, he joined the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds of the BC Major Midget League (BCMML) where he flourished under the tutelage of head coach Peter Hay, who Bowen credits as being the most influential coach of his pre-junior career.
“He understands the game in every aspect that players need to strive,” said Bowen. “He really helped me a lot. He put me under his wing and helped develop me a lot that year.”
Bowen put up 34 points in 27 games that year, but after only one playoff game, he was injured and was forced to watch from the sidelines as the Thunderbirds captured the BCMML championship.
It was bittersweet for the 6-foot-2, 170-pound forward, but bigger and better things were on the horizon.
After recovering for his injury, Bowen, who had already played three regular-season games as an affiliate that year, was able to join the Chiefs who were hosting the 2018 National Junior A Championship.
On top of getting a chance to play for a national title in his hometown, what made it even more special was that he got to skate alongside his older brother Ryan, who had rejoined the Chiefs midseason after a nearly three-year stint in the WHL.
Late in the first period of Chilliwack’s final round-robin game of the tournament against the Steinbach Pistons, Ethan scored his first-ever goal in a BCHL uniform and the first assist went to his older brother Ryan.
“It was a very special moment,” said Ethan. “Especially in my hometown in front of that big of a crowd. It was a really cool experience that I’ll never forget.
The Chiefs went on to win that round-robin game and finish second in the group. They would beat the Ottawa Junior Senators in the semfinal and defeat the Wellington Dukes in the finals to capture their first-ever national championship.
After that championship season, Bowen became a regular with Chilliwack last year, scoring 19 goals and adding 20 assists in his rookie season while playing all 58 games. After finishing as the best regular-season team in the BCHL, the Chiefs were bounced in the second round by the eventual league-champions the Prince George Spruce Kings.
This season, the team has added a number of new players that should have a positive impact right away.
“We’re a really skilled and fast team with a lot of guys with really high IQ,” said Bowen. “We also have a nice edge to us as well this year. We can play the physical side, but we can also play the skilled side. It’s going to be really hard for teams to battle against us.”
Although he’s focused on the BCHL season, there is something else that has his attention coming up in June of 2020. Bowen is expected to be chosen at the NHL Entry Draft in Montreal.
“I try not to think about it too much and just play my game,” he said. “It’s every kid’s dream to get drafted and just knowing that I’m one step closer to getting there is pretty cool. I’m just going to work really hard this season and hopefully I get to hear my name called in June.”