In today's 'player-centred' sports world of multi-million dollar contacts and free agency, it's refreshing to pay tribute to greatness behind the hockey bench. Scotty Bowman is the most successful coach the National Hockey League (NHL) has ever seen, and Sports Illustrated magazine dubbed him "the greatest coach in professional sport."
When, as a coach, he won his ninth Stanley Cup in June 2002, Bowman beat Toe Blake's all-time record of eight Cups with the Canadiens, and tied Red Auerbach of the National Basketball Association's Boston Celtics for the most championships captured by a coach in the four major pro sports of baseball, football, basketball or hockey.
After 30 seasons in the NHL, Bowman holds the all-time NHL coaching records for regular season victories (1,244) as well as playoff wins (223) for an astonishing combined career win total of 1,467 NHL games. Bowman has coached 2,141 regular season games - another record. With the short shelf life of even winning coaches these days, it is likely that Bowman's records will remain. In the ever-expanding NHL, he is the last of an era.
Born William Scott Bowman in Montreal during the Great Depression, Bowman was the son of Scottish immigrants in a family with two brothers and one sister. After a career-shortening injury, Bowman found his place behind the bench where he really could work his magic.
Bowman entered the coaching ranks in St. Louis during the 1967-68 season when the league expanded from six to 12 teams. He led the Blues to the Stanley Cup Finals in each of the club's first three seasons and won two division titles.
In 1971, Bowman moved on to coach his hometown Montreal Canadiens, where had worked and coached in the club's minor league system. Bowman achieved remarkable success in leading the fabled Canadiens to five Stanley Cup Championships (1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1979) along with six divisional titles in eight years. His 1976-77 Montreal squad still holds the NHL record for fewest losses (8) in a single season of 70 or more games played.
He changed roles in 1987 by working briefly for CBC's Hockey Night in Canada as a hockey analyst. Prior to joining the HNIC team, Bowman spent seven seasons with the Buffalo Sabres as the club's general manager and head coach. He won a division title in his first year behind the Buffalo bench (1979-80).
Bowman returned to coaching the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons, earning another Stanley Cup Championship in 1992. Prior to that he was working as Pittsburgh's Director of Player Development and Recruitment where he won another championship.
Bowman has coached an NHL record 13 All-Star games throughout his career with the latest being February 2, 2002 in Los Angeles. He was inducted as a builder into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991, the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1999, and the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2000. Most recently he was inducted into the Michigan Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2001. Bowman has won the Jack Adams Award for Outstanding Coach twice in his illustrious career (1977 and 1996) and was awarded the 2001 Lester Patrick Award for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.
Nicknamed the 'Rain Man' by the team in Pittsburgh, Bowman's memory for statistics, grasp of players' abilities, knowledge of the game, and command of changing strategy gave him the advantage over lesser adversaries. His no-nonsense approach, passion for winning and demand for excellence didn't always make him the most popular coach with players or owners. But Bowman would earn their respect and who can argue with his success?
Scotty Bowman retired from coaching on June 13, 2002. He resides in the Buffalo, N.Y. area with his wife Suella. The Bowman's have five grown children: Alicia, David, Stanley, Bob and Nancy.