Dave Lowry still uses his 250-prefix cell number from his Island days. But make no mistake, he is now firmly Mr. Manitoba.
The former Victoria Royals head coach in the Western Hockey League is back in B.C. this weekend as assistant coach of the Winnipeg Jets, who meet the Canucks in NHL play tonight in Vancouver. Lowry joined the Jets this season by moving down the road provincially from the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL, where he was head coach.
He cleared the move with his son, Adam Lowry, who is a standout forward with the Jets. The unusual situation would not have worked without agreement from the younger Lowry.
“I made sure Adam was involved in the conversation and to get his blessing,” Lowry said.
Father and son have regularly conversed during junior, and then after Jets games since Adam began in the NHL in 2014-15. The elder Lowry is a font of wisdom after a lifetime in the sport, including 19 seasons and 1,084 games in the NHL as a player. But that father-son relationship has had to change now to one that is less familial and more professional. “We have had to separate that [family] aspect. Adam has been awesome and has accepted that I’m a coach and he’s a player,” Lowry said.
The situation is rare. It is only the fourth time a father has coached his son in the NHL. Lester Patrick coached his sons Muzz and Lynn Patrick, all three are Victoria sporting legends, with the New York Rangers.
But the elder Lowry still gets to play the role of traditional hockey dad with younger son Joel Lowry, the former Victoria Grizzlies junior in the B.C. Hockey League, now playing pro in Germany in the Premiership DEL with the Iserlohn Roosters. The elder Lowry streams each Roosters game, regardless of time difference, with helpful hints and observations made by phone and text.
Joel Lowry’s two-season tenure with the Grizzlies, during which he was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2011 NHL draft, was followed by his dad coming to the Island as head coach of the Royals in 2012.
Dave Lowry amassed a winning 199-112-22 record in five seasons on the Victoria bench and never missed the WHL playoffs, winning 21 post-season games. All are Royals franchise records. Lowry was twice named WHL coach of the year while in Victoria, becoming the 11th head coach in league history to win the award twice.
He was assistant coach of the gold medallist 2015 Canadian team in the world junior championship in Toronto and head coach of the sixth-place Canadian squad in 2016 at Helsinki.
Lowry left Victoria to become NHL assistant coach of the Los Angeles Kings in 2017-18 before returning to the WHL as head coach of the Wheat Kings. His return to the NHL with Winnipeg comes amid a pandemic that has changed the very structure of the NHL with the Jets in an all-Canadian division being played in empty rinks.
“It has made us realize to not take anything for granted,” said Lowry. “It places value on the fans, and how much they are missed and how much they brought to the games pre- pandemic, which made the experience so much better.”
Basic things such as that are now glaringly absent. But Lowry has been impressed by the buoyant, even flaming, attitude of the players. “The guys have done an unbelievable job of bringing emotion and intensity to these empty rinks,” he said.
“This schedule of playing the same team several times in a row certainly builds animosity by the end of the set — you get to know all about your opponents after four consecutive games against them. In the end, it’s exciting and gratifying just to be able to be playing.”