Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte
Shaw Boomhower spent last year working as an electrician apprentice in his hometown of Belleville while taking a break from professional hockey.
Then the spark for his love of hockey was re-ignited.
Boomhower, now 23, played 51 games for the Wellington Dukes during the 2015-16 Ontario Junior Hockey League season before spending the next two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League with the Mississauga Steelheads and Ottawa 67’s. He moved on to play two years in the ECHL with the Cincinnati Cyclones while also getting the call up for two games with the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans during the 2019-20 campaign.
Returning home to Belleville and the status of the next hockey season uncertain, he was able to work with Ron Finkle Electrical Services.
“I just didn’t know where the (2020-21) season was going to go last year so I kind of opted out and my brother used to work there and my cousin works there still so I got on as an apprentice and went from there,” Boomhower said over the phone from Wheeling, West Virginia, noting his older brother Josh Preston has now been an electrician for 10 years and his cousin Cooper Sheerin has been with Ron Finkle’s company for two years.
“It’s crazy going from playing hockey to a 9-5 job, but I did enjoy the team mentality that they had.”
Boomhower loved the electrical work and wants to pursue it further in the years to come. He continued to bolster his time management skills and learn the value of hard work.
Last June, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins signed Boomhower to an AHL contract for the 2021-22 season.
“After not playing for a year I didn’t really know where my career was going to take me and what was going to happen during this upcoming season, but once I heard Wilkes-Barre was interested I think it re-sparked that love for hockey again,” Boomhower said.
Part of his summer was spent training with his agent Randy Rowe at World Elite Training in Belleville as he prepared for Pittsburgh Penguins development camp in September. He trained five days a week and was on the ice for four of them.
“It was definitely nice to get back on the ice,” Boomhower said. “We have a lot of expectations going back into pro hockey.”
Boomhower was assigned to start the season with the AHL Penguins’ ECHL affiliate Wheeling Nailers, which have a 15-10-1-0 record through 26 games. He has registered three goals and three assists along with 75 penalty minutes in 14 games.
“It’s a good spot. Wheeling’s a nice little town, kind of reminds me of Belleville,” Boomhower said. “I’m enjoying my teammates and we’re doing pretty decent so it’s been good.”
On Dec. 10, Boomhower was recalled by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and while he didn’t see any game action, there were a lot of positives to take from the AHL stint.
“It was awesome. It’s always nice to see how those guys just carry themselves around the rink and the things they do to get ready for a game,” he remarked. “Even though I didn’t play, I got to practise with them every day and just learn what it takes to play at that level: the speed that they play at and how they act as pros.”
Around the same time Boomhower was called up to the Penguins, his younger brother Nate Boomhower made the big jump from the junior C Picton Pirates of the Provincial Junior Hockey League to the ECHL with Wheeling as Nailers coach Derek Army was looking for players to help fill the void left by AHL call-ups.
“He’s a kid that deserves it,” Shaw Boomhower said of Nate, adding it was expected at the time to be for just one game, but he played six.
“Nate showed what we had and showed his toughness and that he could keep up at this level,” Boomhower said. “Army kept him for a little while longer because we needed more bodies because of COVID. I’m super proud of him and happy that I got to play one game with him. Hopefully it works out in the long run.”
Nate is back in Belleville and his brother certainly hopes another ECHL opportunity will come his way.
While Shaw Boomhower would love another opportunity at the AHL level, he’s relishing his time with the team that has been assembled in Wheeling as well as gaining experience playing in the ECHL.
“I think if we keep playing our game we’ll make a good run for the Kelly Cup,” he said. “People kind of overlook the ECHL, they think it’s run-and-gun hockey, but in reality I think I’d say half of the guys down here are on either NHL or AHL contracts. It’s exciting hockey to watch and I think a lot of people develop their skills here and can take it to the next level.”
Back home in the Quinte region, local hockey teams are dealing with another shutdown. Boomhower certainly feels for those players.
“I think that’s a big part of anybody’s career is playing junior,” he said. “Hopefully (the season) continues and (the players) keep their heads up, continue to train because you never know what the next season will bring and who’s watching or who you’ll meet in the next year.”