Scotty Bowman has been part of 14 Stanley Cup championship teams, and each
one of those titles holds a place in his heart and cherished home in his
A few of those victories – and the ring which came with them – do elicit
some extra emotion now that the man deemed the greatest coach in hockey
history can take time to look back at them all.
A couple of his prized wins are obvious, but another stands out by being
part of an incredible trifecta.
“The first Cup you win as a coach (in 1973) is something that’s extra
special. I’m thinking it’s the same thing as a player. We were in Montreal,
and there was a lot of pressure to win and it was kind of an upset win,”
Bowman said while taking a trip down a trophy-filled memory lane. “And the
last Cup (as a head coach) in 2002 with Detroit means a lot because I knew
it was going to be the last team I was going to coach.
“But the year I cherish the most, strangely enough, is 1976. In the spring,
we won the Stanley Cup by beating Philadelphia, who had won two Cups in a
row, and beat them in four straight. They won two in a row with a different
kind of hockey, they were a tough team and it was a tough series, but we
won in four games.
“So we won the Cup in the spring, and in the fall we won the Canada Cup,
and then in early October our twins (Robert and Nancy) were born. In fact,
my wife was in hospital while the last two weeks of the Canada Cup was on.
“A Stanley Cup in May, a Canada Cup in September and then twins in October.
You’re not going to have another year like that.”
Oh yes, the Canada Cup. It may seem a surprise, but that ’76 tournament –
the first true best-on-best event with teams representing Canada, the
Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Sweden and the United States, which
Canada won in thrilling fashion – is one of only two times Bowman was the
bench boss for the national team, the other being the less-memorable 1981
And what a squad he had to guide in the inaugural Canada Cup, loaded with
Hockey Hall of Fame inductees at every position, including the likes of
Rogie Vachon, Phil Esposito, Lanny McDonald, Bobby Clarke, Marcel Dionne,
Darryl Sittler and Bobby Hull (the lone player from the World Hockey
Association invited to play; “It was lucky we had him, too, because the
games were close,” Bowman recalled) to name a few of the goaltenders and
The real strength, though, was on the blue-line, with a crew of Bobby Orr,
Larry Robinson, Denis Potvin, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe and Jimmy Watson,
who is the lone defenceman from that collection not in the Hockey Hall of
“We had a hell of defence corps,” said Bowman, who was inducted into the
Hall himself in 1991. “Bobby, he wasn’t 100 per cent. He had such a short
career, started in the NHL in ’66 and had knee problems within three or
four years and I bet he played the last four or five years having surgeries
and having to get over them, but he was fantastic in that series. He was
some player, that’s for sure.”
And, amazingly, just one of the hundreds of great players Bowman coached
through his storied career, which is now adding one more accolade. He is
part of the Class of 2017 of the Order of Hockey in Canada, alongside
longtime Canadian Amateur Hockey Association and Hockey Canada president
Murray Costello, as well as Ontario Women’s Hockey Association president
and CEO Fran Rider, who has been a driving force for women’s hockey for
more than 40 years.
“It’s a nice honour to get when you’re not involved,” said Bowman, 83,
whose coaching career also included stints with the expansion St. Louis
Blues (who he guided to three consecutive trips to the Stanley Cup Final),
Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins (with whom he won another Cup in 1991)
and Detroit Red Wings, who he coached to three more crowns.
Now, the NHL’s all-time winningest coach, with 1,244 regular season
victories and another 233 in the playoffs, keeps his hands in the game as
senior advisor of hockey operations for the Chicago Blackhawks, working
with his son, Stan, the club’s senior vice-president and general manager.
At heart, though, he remains a coach, one who was incredibly successful
through five decades and amidst many changes to the game, among them the
eventual evolution to a more skill-oriented style which followed the first
Canada Cup tournament thanks to the European influence.
“Wingers used to stay on their own side because that’s how hockey was
played. And not many before Bobby Orr that can I remember played the way he
did, carrying the puck up the ice,” Bowman recalled.
“When we started playing the Europeans, they grew up on the bigger ice
surface, and had a different style. They would fly guys out of the
defensive zone, had players cutting across the ice, and that was the start
of wingers not just staying on their own wing. It was something for the NHL
to pick up.
It just took time to implement a new style.
“We tried it a little bit in Montreal, but because we had such good teams,
we were reluctant to change much,” said Bowman, who recalls a conversation
with the great Russian coach Anatoli Tarasov in the mid-1970s, during which
he was told the Canadiens could adopt the more wide-open style.
“We had defencemen who could pass the puck a lot and go up the ice, but
didn’t need to make stretch passes or have them join the rush like that.
“The players didn’t really want to change. When you’re winning, why do it,
and that made a lot of sense.”