When you can pass Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman, you know it's a good day.
It doesn't happen often.
But Lightning coach Rick Bowness, 62, will break Bowman's record tonight for most games coached in the NHL (as head coach or assistant. This one is 2,165.
"I've been very fortunate that I played for a little bit and I've been able to coach every day of my life and that's what I'm very, very happy with," Bowness said. "I can look back at my life and say, 'Man, I've worked in a game my whole life.'
"That's pretty good."
Bowness appeared in just 173 NHL games a player, the right wing having stints with the Atlanta Flames, Red Wings, Blues and Jets. His coaching career began as a player-coach for Winnipeg's AHL affiliate Sherbrooke, filling in for Ron Racette, who had a brain tumor. Bowness hasn't left the bench since.
"I wasn't a very good player," Bowness said. "I knew by the time I hit my mid 20s that I loved the game, I wanted to stay in the game, the only way I was going to do that was to get into coaching. In fact, the last contract I negotiated as a player -- and I did my own contracts, I wasn't good enough to need an agent anyway - I had a clause in my contract that I got X amount of dollars as a player and if I decided to retire or they asked me to get into coaching, this was the salary as a coach…I was only 28 years old, so I figured, 'If this doesn't work out, I'll go back and play a few more years in the minors.'"
Bowness is in his fourth season with the Lightning. Most of his career has been spent as an assistant coach, with 463 games as head coach for Ottawa, Boston, Islanders, Phoenix and Winnipeg. Bowness said he's been offered some management jobs over the years as an assistant GM, but wanted to stay in coaching. And it doesn't seem like he's going to stop until he wins his first Stanley Cup.
"It's been a great experience to live in these different communities but what you always have to keep in mind when you do that is that you're going home and telling your wife and kids, 'You know what, dad's been fired or we're moving,'" the 62-year-old Bowness said. "… Now, you give my wife Judy full credit because I wouldn't have coached one day let alone all these years without her love and support and her willingness just to say, 'Okay, let's pack up and where are we going?' Never once did she complain. Never once did she say, 'Rick, how about we look at doing something else?'…And our kids, they're not afraid to move. They're not afraid to challenge. You can go anywhere and live and survive, and so our kids were never intimidated by that and they're not afraid to chase their dreams. If you're going to chase a dream, there's a price to pay and you can't be afraid of that price. And if that means packing up and moving and going to a whole new area, living a whole new life, then that comes with the package."