Getting to Know: Journeyman coach Rick Bowness

Former NHL right winger and five-time head coach Rick Bowness talks about some the fiercest competitors he’s faced and the time he got involved in a brawl from behind the bench.

Status: Former NHL right winger from 1975-1984 for Winnipeg, St. Louis, Detroit and Pittsburgh. Currently serves as associate coach for Tampa Bay. Was previously a head coach for Winnipeg, Boston, Ottawa, New York Islanders and Phoenix.

DOB: January 25, 1955 In: Moncton, NB

First Hockey Memory: “Going to watch my dad play. He played senior hockey in Nova Scotia. He used to bring me to the rink. My first memory of hockey is watching my father play. It wasn’t soon after that I was skating out on the backyard rink or lakes or wherever I could find a place to play.”

Hockey Inspirations: “My dad (Bob). He was born in Montreal and was Montreal Canadiens property. He attended training camp with Beliveau and Richard and Dickie Moore and Geoffrion and all those guys. He signed a contract with them and played in the minors for a few years. My passion for the game came through my father. He got me started. After that you start to know the game better but the inspiration that always motivated me throughout my career was to win the Stanley Cup.”

Greatest Sports Moment: “I’ve had two greatest moments. Last year when we beat the Rangers in Game 7. And in ’11 when we beat the Sharks in Game 6. The elation of going to the Stanley Cup finals. So there are two of them.”

Most Painful Moment: “Those. And they’re related. Losing Game 7 to the Bruins. And losing Game 6 to the ‘Hawks last year. Those – both the elation of getting to the finals and the devastation of losing it…of losing the Cup and coming that close. They just stay with you forever.”

Favorite Uniforms: “As a kid growing up in Halifax – Boston Bruins and Chicago. And they’re still my favorites.”

Favorite Rinks To Play: “I love going to Montreal and Chicago. Another one that surprises is Nashville. We played them in the playoffs one year and it was just an incredible atmosphere. It was as loud as any rink I’ve been in in my life. Montreal and Chicago – every game always has tremendous atmosphere. But Nashville – that series we had with them was just an amazing thing to go in there – that non-traditional hockey market – and have such a loud and enthusiastic crowd. I love those moments in sports.”

Funniest Players Encountered: “Oh God, there’s a lot of characters [chuckles].”

Fiercest Competitors Encountered: “Jonathan Toews. There was a Game 7 in Vancouver. The year we went to the finals. And we were up 1-0 and we were on a power play late in the game. He got the puck at center ice. And he skated by our bench – and he had such an incredible look in his eyes – I’ll never forget it. And you say: We’re on a power play, we’re in trouble, and he went down and beat our two guys and scored a goal. And I’ll never forget that moment, when he got that puck, he skated right in front of me in the bench and I looked at his eyes and the determination and the will he showed in those eyes. And right away you say: We’re in trouble! And sure enough he went down and scored. Those are the moments that stay with you forever. I remember I coached the Bruins and we were on a four-on-three power play. And we had Ray Bourque – one of the best players in the world. And Mario Lemieux got the puck and he went down and scored. Like it was: I’m taking this and I’m going and it doesn’t matter who you have out there and no matter what you do – I’m scoring. And he went down and scored. So those are the moments you see those athletes and the benefit of being on the bench is you see that facial expression and you see the determination in their eyes. And it just amazes you.”

READ ALSO:  David Legwand converts shootout chance to help Predators top Blues 2-1

Embarrassing Hockey Memory: “A couple of things I’d like to do over [smiles]. I just remember – you couldn’t do it today – when I first got into coaching – there was a brawl. I was involved with Timmy Hunter. And he was still playing with the Calgary Flames. And he and I had a couple of battles as players. And he skated by the bench and I said something to him and he tried to get at me on the bench. And I took a swing at him and I hit the poor linesman [chuckles]. Yeah, that’s one of those moments you say: What was I thinking [laughs]? It was a week after I retired as a player. Because I was player/coach in the minors at Sherbrooke of the American League. Middle of November and they asked me to retire – I was 28 years old – and come up and coach. I guess I still had a player mentality even though I was coaching..”

Favorite Sport Outside Hockey: “Golf.”

First Famous Player You Met or Encountered: “Johnny Bower. My dad had retired and was working for a company that Johnny Bower worked for in the summer. And the company sent Johnny down to work with my dad for a couple of days and dad brought him to the house and I remember meeting Johnny Bower.”

Strangest Game: “There’s a lot of those stories. A lot of games where you just say ‘Wow.’ Like every decade has been a different era. Like the 70s were the rough and tough. The 80’s were the wide open. The 90’s they slowed it to a crawl. It’s been a lot quicker since the turn of the century. Every game has unique dynamics. It really does. The ebbs and flows and the highs and lows. But I do remember winning Game 4 against the Sharks. It was 2-1 in the series. Actually we beat the Sharks in Game 5 of the series. In Game 4 they took three penalties in a row. And we ended up scoring two five on three goals. Just like that. And that won us the series in game four. Just gave us the series. You never see that. And they were legitimate calls. They weren’t cheap calls. The ebbs and flows of the game. So that was a key moment of moving forward in the playoffs. And you say Wow. They just had to be called. And we took advantage of it. And won the series because of it. “

Personality Qualities Most Admired: “Integrity. Be honest. And one of the things you learn as a coach dealing with players… they don’t always like what they hear. But it has to be told. I always want people to treat me the same way. If you have something to say just be honest and up front and have integrity. Honesty and integrity and a person’s character are very important to me.”

Mark “Scoop” Malinowski is the author of the new tennis books “Facing Federer” and “Facing Nadal” which are available at amazon. He’s currently working on “Facing Probert.”