Nova Scotia

Halifax-raised NHL record-breaker continues 35-year quest for Stanley Cup

Halifax’s Rick Bowness has his sights set on winning the Stanley Cup even after setting a new NHL record for most games coached in the league.

'When I first got into coaching when I was 28 years old. I never thought I would have lasted this long'

After 35 years coaching 2,165 NHL games, Rick Bowness passed the legendary Scotty Bowman on Feb. 10 to become the new leader in games coached in the league. (Chris O'Meara/The Associated Press)

Halifax's Rick Bowness still has his sights set on winning the Stanley Cup after setting a new NHL record for most games coached in the league.

After 35 years coaching 2,165 NHL games, Bowness passed the legendary Scotty Bowman on Feb. 10 to become the new leader in games coached in the NHL. Bowness is currently an assistant with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The 62-year-old Bowness is not thinking about retirement because he still has a burning desire to win the game's greatest title.

"When I first got into coaching when I was 28 years old, I never thought I would have lasted this long," he said.

"I've been very fortunate and I consider every day I spend in the National Hockey League a blessing."

Came very close to winning Cup twice

He came close two years ago when his current team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, fell in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Stanley Cup finals.

Bowness came even closer in 2011 while he was an assistant coach in Vancouver. The Canucks held a 3-2 series lead in the cup finals but the Boston Bruins stormed back to win the final two games.

"That eats away at you and that's what drives me even today," said Bowness.

"Getting that close and feeling it and knowing the opportunity to win it is right there in your grasp and you walk away with nothing, that's something that will stay with me the rest of my life until I win my first Stanley Cup."

  Bowness has served as a head coach with five NHL teams: the Boston Bruins, the Ottawa Senators, the Winnipeg Jets, the New York Islanders and the Phoenix Coyotes.

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman, right, of Sweden, shares a laugh with assistant coach Rick Bowness during an NHL hockey training camp practice Oct. 12, 2016, in Brandon, Fla. (Chris O'Meara/The Associated Press)

'A lot of sacrifices'

He said he's lost track of how many times he's been hired and fired but he gives his high school sweetheart and wife, as well as their three kids, a lot of credit for supporting his coaching career.

"There have been a lot of moves and a lot of upheaval in terms of going to new schools and new communities," said Bowness.

"In order to achieve my success, my family has made a lot of sacrifices over the years."

Bowness was born in Moncton, N.B., but his family moved to Halifax when he was an infant.

He made it to the NHL as a player, scoring 18 goals in 173 games spread out over seven seasons with Atlanta, Detroit, St. Louis and Winnipeg.

It was with the Jets organization Bowness got started as a coach. John Ferguson Sr. made him an emergency fill-in player-coach with the Winnipeg farm team in Sherbrooke.

"They had hired Ron Racette who had a great junior career but unfortunately for Ron, he had a brain tumour," said Bowness.

"He wasn't ready for training camp so they came to me and said, 'Why don't you be a player-coach for a while?' Ron was unable to come back to his job so I finished that year as player-coach."

From Sherbrooke, he was promoted to the NHL as an assistant coach in Winnipeg.​

What's next?

Bowness is under contract with Tampa Bay for two more years.

Last year, he interviewed for the coaching vacancy in Anaheim but didn't get the job.

He said he's happy with the Lightning franchise but he's not sure if he'll finish his coaching career there.

He said the only certainty in his life is his annual summer pilgrimage back to his home province to enjoy his membership at the Oakfield Golf Club.

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