When Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman handed the Stanley Cup trophy to his father, Scotty, the team’s senior adviser, after the victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, it represented a very special moment between father and son. Scotty is currently the Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations for the Chicago Blackhawks and his son, Stan, is the team’s GM. Bowman is regarded as one of the greatest coaches in history, in any sport.
It is similar to Bobby Hull passing the Stanley Cup to Brett, or Gordie handing it to Mark – that is how difficult such a feat is in the NHL.
If you believe in fate, or a higher power you may appreciate how Scotty Bowman turned adversity into a triumph. He started his career as a player as a regarded prospect in juniors until he was hit in the head by Jean Guy Talbot which resulted in a fractured skull and the end of his playing career.
While some would have quit the game, Bowman connected with his future mentor Sam Pollock and began a tutelage that would ultimately carry him to the NHL and into the history books. Like Pollock did with him, he seemed to tutor and mentor his own group of players who later became successful coaches and associate coaches throughout his coaching and GM career.
Most are not aware that Bowman coached Talbot (the man who ended his playing career) in the NHL which provides an interesting insight into him. His heart has always been in the right place although he as a rule wore different masks depending on whom he was dealing with. He learned from Pollock that there had to be a wall between the players and their coach.
Bowman, coached Guy Lafleur, Jacques Lemaire, Yvon Cournyer, Guy Lapointe, Steve Shutt, and many other stars and managed to get their buy-in to consider the team first. He duplicated that in a different era with Steve Yzerman, Nick Lidstrom, Brett Hull, and with other star performers on the Detroit Red Wings. Bowman won in Montreal and he won in Detroit. The marquee players listened to him, but he also knew how to treat them.
Bowman also was elected as head coach of the largest group of superstars ever on one team when he successfully coached Team Canada in the Canada Cup series.
Hockey Hall of Famer Steve Shutt won the Stanley Cup five times under Scotty Bowman and famously said that “players on the Montreal Canadiens hated the legendary coach 364 days a year, and on the 365th they got their championship rings.”
“Scotty, when he came to Detroit, we had a good team, but hadn’t won any championships since the ’50s,” said Lidstrom, who won the Cup four times, including three under Bowman. “Having Scotty come and be part of something like that, we realized that we had the chance to become a great team, and I think Scott was the reason that it kind of changed the organization and changed the way we were playing.
Two examples of Bowman’s influence were Jacques Lemaire and Steve Yzerman. “Lemaire was an offensive player in Montreal when he first got there, but over time he developed and became a great two-way player. I told Yzerman, we didn’t have enough scoring so he’d have to play defense, block shots, penalty-kill, take face-offs. We weren’t going to win any other way and I sold him on the idea. I told him his production was going to go down … he had 160 points one year, but at that time he’d had enough individual records. Steve was starting to feel the pressure to win a championship” said Bowman.
During the recent Hall of Fame Induction weekend, Sergei Fedorov revealed Bowman’s other human side. Fedorov was having problems in the early days of his relationship with tennis star Anna Kournikova, the legendary coach released him from the team to deal with his personal troubles.
“I just wanted to get across that I thought I’m one of the first guys who Scotty kind of let in, that’s he’s really a nice human and really understood our worries, our problems, because he doesn’t behave like that at all,” Fedorov said. “I had a problem and he let me take care of it, and I didn’t expect that. He let me off the team, that’s unheard of. I don’t think so many people, even my teammates, know that.”
“I really, truly figured out who Scotty Bowman was,” Fedorov said. “After that I played even harder for him.”
The 82-year-old Bowman doesn’t really need to sell his career successes or his credibility is illustrated in Stanley Cups and successful coaches. No one has come close to him in that regard.
“It was just a privilege for me that he’s the one who took a chance on me and believed in me,” said Housley, the highest-scoring American defenseman in NHL history. “It’s a good chance for me to say thank you to him, as he’s one of the biggest reasons that I was able get into the Hall.”
As head coach, Bowman has won a record nine Stanley Cups; five with the Canadiens (1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1979), one with the Penguins (1992) and three with the Red Wings (1997, 1998, and 2002). He has also won five Stanley Cups as a member of an organization’s front office. He was director of player development for the 1991 Penguins, Consultant with the 2008 Detroit Red Wings, and Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations for the 2010, 2013, and 2015 Chicago Blackhawks. Bowman won the Jack Adams Award in 1977 and 1996. In the 1976–77 season he won a record 60 games, breaking his own record of 58 wins the year before. He broke his own record again in the 1995–1996 season, with 62 wins. His 8 losses in 1976–77 are a modern record. His teams also made it to the Stanley Cup Finals a record 13 times and the semi-finals a record 16 times.
He influenced retired players as both GM’s and coaches including Jimmy Roberts, Jacques Lemaire, Larry Robinson, Guy Lapointe, Phil Housley, Craig Ramsey and Mike Babcock and his son Stan Bowman.
Scotty Bowman had some great sayings such as:”There is nothing so uncertain as a sure thing” and “I don’t have bad relationships with my players. But I don’t get into long conversations with them either.”
Scotty Bowman’s impact on hockey will endure long after he is gone and while hockey purists say there will never be anther Bobby Orr, or Wayne Gretzky they can also say without reservation that there will never be another Scotty Bowman.