NHL

Winnipeg Jets coach Rick Bowness is retiring after 38 NHL seasons

Winnipeg Jets coach Rick Bowness is retiring after 38 NHL seasons

Rick Bowness walked off the ice following the Winnipeg Jets' final loss of the season, which eliminated them from the playoffs, unhappy with his performance and how his team played, and it dawned on him that it should be the final NHL game he coaches.

“Coaches have always told me … they’ve always said you’ll know it’s time,” Bowness said. “It just hit me then: It’s time.”

Bowness announced his retirement Monday after 38 NHL seasons, a well-respected career that included leading the Dallas Stars to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020 and more time spent behind the bench than anyone else in league history.

“When I leave, I just want to be remembered,” Bowness told reporters at a news conference in Winnipeg, choking back tears. “I just love the game, and I respected the game. I love this league. I respect the league.”

Health issues of his own and his wife, Judy, played a role in his decision, which went beyond disappointment over losing to Colorado in five games. After all, Bowness did a good enough job the rest of the time to be a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year for the first time for leading the Jets to a franchise-record 52 wins and a second consecutive postseason appearance in as many seasons on the job.

Bowness was planning to retire in the summer of 2022 before Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff called to try to persuade him to take one more shot at winning the Stanley Cup. He didn't return that call right away but eventually decided to give it a go.

“We asked them to put their lives on hold to come here to Winnipeg to help give us, this group, a different voice, a different path, some strong structure,” Cheveldayoff said. “Just really wanted to thank Rick for the two years that he came and gave us here.”

“We asked them to put their lives on hold to come here to Winnipeg to help give us, this group, a different voice, a different path, some strong structure,” Cheveldayoff said. “Just really wanted to thank Rick for the two years that he came and gave us here.”

Bowness at 69 was the oldest head coach in the league. Word of his retirement led to plenty of well-wishes from those he has gotten to know around the game for several decades.

“I’m hearing today from guys I played with, and that’s a long time ago, and from all over the world — just people you coached,” Bowness said. “They’re over in Europe and I’m getting texts from them. It’s the friendships and the people you meet.”

The Moncton, New Brunswick, native worked 2,726 games as a coach in some capacity, the vast majority of it as an assistant across numerous roles dating to 1984. He is one of just three to coach across five decades, along with Hall of Famers Scotty Bowman and Pat Quinn.

“A lifetime in hockey and obviously well-respected by all of the coaching peers but also the players he’s had an effect on over their careers, especially the young defensemen in the league,” said Peter DeBoer, who succeeded Bowness as Stars coach. “It’s a who’s-who list of the last 20 years. Great career, and I feel fortunate to have coached against him, and I just want him to enjoy his retirement and congratulate him on a great run.”

It was not immediately clear if associate coach Scott Arniel, who filled in for several games this season when Bowness was away for personal reasons, would be considered as a potential successor.

That was Bowness many times, taking over as a midseason replacement for the original Winnipeg Jets, New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes and then the Stars in late 2019. He also coached the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators and had lengthy stints as an assistant for the Vancouver Canucks and Tampa Bay Lightning that included long playoff runs.

The closest Bowness got to the Cup was Game 7 of the 2011 final with Vancouver on Alain Vigneault’s staff. As a head coach, his Dallas team fell two victories short of the Cup against Tampa Bay while playing in the Edmonton “bubble” in 2020.

“It’s not winning the Stanley Cup: It’s always been important, but over the years as you age, you hope you have an impact on your players’ lives off the ice, on the ice and that’s been more important to me over the last 10 years,” Bowness said. “I’ve had some runs at the Stanley Cup and things happen that are out of your control with injuries and everything, and then you lose the Cup and, OK, things happen out of your control. What is in your control every day is the impact that you can have on your players on and off the ice.”

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AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Frisco, Texas, contributed to this report.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

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