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How Dallas Stars coach Rick Bowness helped shape the Lightning

Victor Hedman says Bowness, who believed in him from the start, meant a lot to his career.
Dallas Stars interim head coach Rick Bowness during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Dallas Stars interim head coach Rick Bowness during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]
Published Dec. 20, 2019|Updated Dec. 20, 2019

TAMPA — Rick Bowness returned to Amalie Arena on Thursday as a head coach. The former Lightning assistant coach came back last year, but that was as an assistant with Dallas. This time, the Stars are his team.

Bowness joined the Lightning after Jon Cooper was hired in 2013. He spent five years with the team before they went separate ways in June 2018. Bowness, who was hired by Dallas shortly after, was promoted to interim head coach after Dallas fired Jim Montgomery on Dec. 10.

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“We went to the (Stanley Cup) Final, we went to the Conference Final three times,” Bowness said of his time with the Lightning. “We have productive years and at the end of five years, it was time to move on, and we did.”

For Bowness, returning to Tampa means dinner with his daughter. Kristen is the Lightning Foundation’s manager of diversity development and sled hockey. They went out in Hyde Park on Wednesday.

Bowness was Cooper’s clear top assistant for most of his time with the Lightning. Like in Dallas, he helped a new NHL coach establish himself in the league. Cooper credited Bowness with guiding him when he was brand new.

“A lot of principles I have today were with a lot of help from him,” Cooper said. “It’s great to see him, not under these circumstances, but to get a chance. Whatever his team does, it’s definitely going to work hard.”

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Victor Hedman also credited Bowness, who worked with the defenseman, with helping advance his career. Hedman, who turned 29 on Wednesday, was young when Bowness joined the team.

“He came in right away and believed I could be a good player in this league,” Hedman said. “It’s very important as a young (defenseman) to get a coach that believes in you.”

Bowness’s attention to detail and strength as a teacher stand out to Hedman. Bowness helped him improve in the defensive and offensive zones.

“He’s a great human being and deserves this opportunity,” Hedman said. “You wish him the best 80 out of 82 games.”

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.