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OPEN MIC: Bowman brings experience to World All-Stars

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Jim Kelley

 
   
 
Scott Bowman, coach of the Detroit Red Wings, is the winningest coach in the history of the National Hockey League. He will also be the coach of the World All-Stars at the 52nd NHL All-Star game Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Like most things Bowman does nowadays, this, too, will be a record. The 68-year-old coach will be making his 13th All-Star game appearance. Ironically, it was 21 years ago when Bowman squared off against Pat Quinn, his North American team counterpart for an All-Star game showdown. That game was also played in Los Angeles. Quinn won. The two men coached against each other in the 2000 All-Star game in Toronto where Bowman won. Bowman leads all NHL coaches in career victories (1,227 and counting) and is the winngest playoff coach as well. He is tied with the legendary Toe Blake for most Stanley Cup championships (eight) and is the odds-on favorite to win the Cup again this season. In a different variation of our Open Mic segment, FOXSports.com caught up with both Bowman and Quinn via an NHL conference call. The results of Bowman's portion of that group interview is as follows: FOXSports.com: You have had success with different teams in very different eras. How have you changed as a coach over the years? Scott Bowman: Biggest change is the help that (coaches get). Everything is wide open now. There's much more information on the teams (now). When I first started we didn't pre-scout and we had a little bit of video, not much. And you were fortunate if you even knew a little bit about the other team. I think that's helped in a lot of ways. It hurt in a lot of others.
NAME: William Scott Bowman
POSITION: Head coach Detroit Red Wings, head coach World Team NHL All-Star game
OTHER JOBS:
  • Previously coached the St. Louis Blues, the Montreal Canadiens, the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins and won Cups with Montreal, Pittsburgh and Detroit while bringing the Blues to the finals.
  • Coached Team Canada to the 1976 Canada Cup title.
  • Coached in the 1981 Canada Cup and coached the NHL All-Stars in a three-game series against the Soviet Union in 1979.
  • In a brief respite between Buffalo and Pittsburgh, he served as a television analyst for the Canadian Broadcasting Company, working regularly on Hockey Night in Canada.
  • WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW HIM: Considered one of the bright minds in hockey today with a keen insight as to what's right and what's wrong about NHL hockey. He's considered a living legend, not just for his coaching success, but for his input to the game. Twice the NHL coach of the year and three times a runner up, Bowman is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Lester Patrick Trophy for service to hockey in the United States. He was once referred to by Sports Illustrated as "the best coach ever in a major professional sport." A man with a fiery temper who has, at times, run afoul of the media, his players, other teams' players, referees, league officials and even owners, Bowman survives as a coach for one reason: He wins. He is currently the longest tenured coach with the same team and he has his name on the Cup nine times (eight as a coach and once as a director of player personnel). His next win in a Stanley Cup finals series will be his 33rd, another NHL record.
    The defense — there's not too much teams don't know much about each other. Now we have help, a lot of help for the practice sessions, the video, the goaltenders, your conditioning. All that has made it a much different game for the coaches because you are not alone anymore and you just sort of direct around. I think that's the biggest difference, I would say, the help that you have to do your job. Q: What changes have you made then? How do you adapt and how do you use that stuff? SB: I don't know about changes you make. You are aware of what the game is now and it's much different. Well, when I first broke in it wasn't that much different, because the West Division wasn't a strong offensive division as a group. We had a lot of players that were ¿ just coming up from the minors and some that hadn't played regularly with other teams, so they definitely went to a strong defensive type of game. It showed at that time that the West Division did pretty well, even in All-Star games. A couple of All-Star games I was involved with, it looked like we were out-classed as far as the named players were concerned, but they worked together. They played tight defense. And I think that's what's happened now is it's so difficult to score goals now. It's changed a little bit the last couple of weeks. There's been some high-scoring games, but there's still been the low-scoring games and that's always what I'd say is the toughest part now. There's so many great players in the game that are even struggling to score goals. They are still playing pretty well, but when you look at the stats of players on every team you are wondering, "Gee, they are not lighting it up like they did before." I think it's not their change as much as the way the game has changed and, you know, the goalies are very athletic and there's no room anymore either. They've got so much stuff on. Everybody does. You could look at tapes of goalies in the league now then when they first started in the league 10 to 15 years ago, in certain camera positions, you see a lot of net. But now we (don't). They are going to work at their game; the players have got these new sticks. Everybody is shooting the puck really hard. You aren't going to tell the goalie you can't wear that kind of equipment, or who is going to play in the net? The whole thing is packaged up into making it tough to score. Q: How does the challenge of coaching this Red Wings team with all the veterans compare to the teams you had in Pittsburgh or Montreal? SB: Well, the named players always overshadow everyone else, but the biggest emergence on our team, obviously, our goaltender has given us a lot of confidence in a lot of games. But we (have got) younger players that play now on defense, Jiri Fischer, Mathieu Dandenault, and they log over 20 minutes a game. Our most exciting player right now is Pavel Datsyuk, he's another rookie. We're using him quite a bit. Boyd Devereaux (is another one of those players that) don't get any accolades. It is because the veterans, you know, every time they get a point or a goal or a game, it is historic, and that's overshadowed. So the mixture has been good. The veterans have fit in well. We traded away (players that produced) a goal a game last year or didn't sign the players that were here and we have been fortunate to replace that part of the game that is so important. We're only getting a little over three goals a game and fortunately, between Hull and Robitaille, they've got us back the goal that we didn't re-sign ¿ you know, with fellows like (Martin) Lapointe, (Slava) Kozlov and (Doug) Brown and (Larry) Murphy not here. But it's a more balanced team, I think. We had the same team for three or four years as everybody knows, and now we've a few new players and everybody is excited again. Q: You receive a lot of accolades ¿ how do you keep all that in perspective? So many people come up to you and just give so much praise and things, how do you keep that in perspective? SB: Well, I have been in the game a long time so, you know, you have setbacks when you are in it as long as I have been. I have had some adversity and I have had a lot of good days, too. So I just think about both times — the times you win, the times you lose — and you never expect it really when it comes. I enjoy the job. Like Pat (Quinn) said, I have done other work and it seems to be more fun around the team when you are not coaching. When you have coached a lot and then you end up not coaching, which we both have done, there's something missing. The other parts of the job you are in look pretty good, but you miss (coaching). I think it's the same as a player, the toughest part when a player finishes playing is not all the events as much as the camaraderie and they all say the same thing. It's just that they are so used to being with the teammates during the hockey season. It's like (that for) a coach, too. You are used to getting in a routine and going down to the rink and practicing or a game or whatever it might be, so that keeps you going. You don't really have much time when you are a coach to sit back and say, "You know, it is time to do something else right now." You are just thinking. I think you are thinking of your team probably when you are sleeping, too. Q: You have been an influence to so many coaches. Who were your influences? SB: I got lucky when I first started coaching. I coached in Montreal, a junior team, and you know, I was able to be in the same office as Toe Blake and, obviously, I had a lot of fun with Toe. I was coaching the junior team. He was coaching the Canadiens. They had great teams as everyone knows in those days, and it was great to just have insight. I didn't say much. I was doing a lot more listening. It was amazing what he would (do). In those days they didn't have all the stats they have today, but I remember one year they had a terrific team. They played the other teams 14 times, seven home and seven away. One day ¿ (there) was a weekend series coming up with Detroit. They were a good team, too. And he knew that I knew some of the players because we used to hang around the coffee shop, and I was a young guy and I played junior with some of them. And he made reference to me — he said, "You watch your friend tomorrow night." He said he isn't going to play much. I just went through the stats of the first 11 games and he has been on for so many goals-against and everything else, and I got all those little tips. I'd go to the game next week, sure enough, he'd play with four defensemen instead of using this other one and things like that. And I'd go over and ask him for advice. Then I got back to Montreal many years later and he had been retired as the coach. He was very helpful. He was like, you know, an icon in Montreal, and rightly so. And he'd come in the dressing room. Usually what he'd do, he'd seek out any players that might be disgruntled because they hadn't played much. It was pretty rewarding, because I remember in particular we had a lot of young players (who) used to have to wait their time and fellows like Bob Gainey didn't play much the first year and Steve Shutt. It was easy for these players to get disgruntled. And he'd go over to them and say, "You know, so and so did this ten years ago and look where he is now." And so coming from a fellow like Toe Blake, it made my job a lot easier and I always respected that fact. And, of course, Sam Pollock was the general manager of the team and he had a big influence on my job with Montreal and also in other places. Q: A report up here last week, I believe it was that you have been approached by the Russian team to be a consultant for them in the Olympics. Could you clarify that please? SB: Not really. I had a chance last summer. The Latvian team called me and wanted me to see if I could do it, but I am going to take this time to really recharge. At my stage I really need that. Slava Fetisov (the current Russian Olympic Team coach, recently dismissed as an assistant coach with New Jersey) played in Detroit and we've already played them our two games. And yeah, he'd come and ask me if I wanted to get involved in the Olympics. Being a dual citizen (Canada and the United States), I made it pretty clear. I said, "Slava, I couldn't find my way clear to work in the Olympics for another organization other than those two." So he understood it. And we have one of his best friends on our (Red Wings) team, Igor Larionov, and I haven't been able to come to grips to try to help anybody else. So I am going to take the time. I am going to have a family reunion in Florida. You don't get much chance to do that. I am going to enjoy it. I am going to watch the games like everybody else, but I won't get involved with any other team for sure. Jim Kelley can be reached at his email address: jkelley@foxsports.com.

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