Borowiecki Thriving in New Role as Predators Professional Development Coach

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As Jeremy Lauzon delivered a number of crushing checks on Connor McDavid and the rest of the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday evening, high above the playing surface at Rogers Place one of the Nashville Predators most prolific enforcers watched on intently.

“I do miss being out there to stand up for the guys and go to battle for them,” Mark Borowiecki smiled. “That itch does pop up every once in a while, but I try to press it back.”

Joining his former teammates on their three-game voyage through Minnesota, Edmonton and finally his hometown of Ottawa, the now-retired Borowiecki is perfectly happy leaving the competition to the boys on the ice.

“It’s been a nice balance,” he said. “Just balancing work and staying engaged and scratching that hockey itch, but also spending a little more time at home to focus on my wife and our kids. It’s been a really nice mix and the organization has been really good. I just was so grateful for the opportunity they’ve given me to find that balance.”

There’s a new role for Borowiecki, too. This one, however, consists of much more conversation and much less confrontation. After all, for every check delivered, every punch thrown, there were always twice as many moments of support and advocacy for his teammates offered from No. 90.

Now working closely with Predators Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Development Scott Nichol as a professional development scout, Borowiecki finds the latter qualifications much more useful.

“Scott had said to me when I first took the job on, and I think he’s bang on, that it’s basically the same thing I was doing at the end of my career as an older player,” Borowiecki said. “I’m just not putting on the equipment every day.”

Instead, Borowiecki helps bring up the next generation of Predators talent in a sport that can often be exceedingly demanding on the body and the mind. With mental health a cornerstone of Borowiecki’s NHL legacy, that subject is now a big part of his job description.

“Sometimes people just need a friend, you know?” he said. “It’s a high-stress, results-driven job. You can get sucked into the rabbit hole and sometimes you lose sight of things, you lose a little bit of perspective. And I think sometimes when you lose that perspective, it’s even harder to climb out of those holes. So that’s where I can slide in in that regard to sort of help guys, and maybe just as a sounding board, as someone to talk to, someone who’s maybe a little more objective in their play and their role who they can still talk to about hockey and life.”

In his new position, Borowiecki often finds himself working alongside Predators Team Psychiatrist Vickie Woosley, who helped the defenseman overcome his own mental struggles later on in his NHL career.

“We kind of play off each other a little bit,” Borowiecki said. “Sometimes for a player, maybe for whatever reason, you don’t want to take that step and go to a clinical psychologist. So maybe that’s where I slide in as a player. I’m not going to say that I’m equipped to handle all situations or give out medical advice, but maybe it’s finding where I can kind of slide in and either facilitate that relationship with Vickie or do what I can based on my own personal experience to help out.”

It’s perhaps a perfect role for the man many consider as one of the most genuine voices and biggest advocates for change in the National Hockey League.

“He was a leader and he led by example,” Predators Captain Roman Josi said. “I think that the younger guys, and not just the younger guys, but guys like me look up to him and the way he handles himself, the way he goes about life, with everything. It’s not just hockey, it’s life in general, like when he stepped up with the mental health side too and helped so many people. He’s kind of doing it all. And he’s definitely a role model for all of us.”

Even those who have only recently had the privilege of connecting with Borowiecki have already seen his influence in the locker room firsthand.

“Being around him and being around the group and seeing the impact he’s had for all our players and for the organization is immeasurable,” Predators Head Coach Andrew Brunette said. “[Players like Borowiecki] kind of keep everybody together in our game and especially in today’s game. There are so many other distractions and so many other self-motivated things, to have a guy like him that’s unconditional and always around, we’re all fortunate to be around him.”

Of course, having Borowiecki along for the ride before his two former clubs do battle gave his Predators teammates a golden opportunity to show him some well-earned gratitude.

Before a team practice on Sunday, the Predators presented their former heavyweight with a fitting retirement gift: a heavy bag with all the details of his storied 458-game career, as well as the NHL’s Hockey Is For Everyone logo, etched into the vinyl exterior.

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