New associate coach Rick Bowness on GM Yzerman: 'I do believe he's going to build a winner'
Rick Bowness said even after 24 seasons as an NHL head or assistant coach, he still has no problem getting the competitive juices flowing. Add he has never won a Stanley Cup as a coach or a player, and Bowness sees his new position as a Lightning associate coach as part of a quest as well as a job.
"What's carried me through my life is my passion for the game," Bowness said Monday after his signing was announced. "The one thing I don't have is a Stanley Cup and that drives me every day. I'm going (to the Lightning) to help (general manager Steve Yzerman) and to help (coach Jon Cooper) and (owner Jeff Vinik) win a Stanley Cup. That's why I'm going there."
Bowness, 58, spent the past seven seasons as a Canucks assistant. He was fired last month in a housecleaning that included coach Alain Vigneault after Vancouver was swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Sharks. In six previous seasons he was a Coyotes assistant and has had head coaching stints with the Jets, Bruins, Senators, Islanders and Coyotes, and led Boston to the 1992 Eastern Conference final.
It is that "vast knowledge," as Yzerman called it, that convinced Yzerman and Cooper Bowness was the right person for the job. For Cooper, who is preparing for his first full season as an NHL coach, Bowness' knowledge of the league will be invaluable, and Cooper said hiring Bowness, who will coach the defense and penalty kill, was a "no-brainer."
"We were looking for experience," Cooper said. "I don't believe we were going to find anyone in the league with more experience than Rick."
"Jon is the head coach. It's his team. I'm here to support him," Bowness said. "I'm here to help in any way I can. Jon and I hit it off very well at our meeting (last week) in Toronto. I know the league. I know how the coaches operate in this league. I don't have to make changes in what I do. I'm just going to make sure I do everything I can to help Jon."
Tampa Bay, which is not renewing the contract of assistant coach Dan Lacroix, might not be done fiddling with the coaching staff. Yzerman said evaluations and decisions still have to be made on assistant Steve Thomas and goaltenders coach Frantz Jean, both of whom have expiring deals.
Whatever happens, or doesn't, Bowness said the Lightning was "definitely my first choice" because of Yzerman and his vision.
"I've always been a big admirer of him in the hockey world," said Bowness, who added that he talked to a couple of other teams about jobs. "But what impressed me about Steve is there are a lot of great players who retire and you never hear from them again. Well, Steve went to work. I do believe he is going to build a winner."
"This is a real good fit for me," Bowness continued. "I feel very fortunate that they chose me to join their staff."