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Dallas Stars head coach Rick Bowness wants one more crack at capturing that elusive Stanley Cup.
And if the National Hockey League returns from its suspension of play due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Moncton-born, Halifax-raised Bowness might have the team to pull off the feat.
“We’re in a good spot,” the 65-year-old said in a recent interview. “We’re No. 2 in goals against in the league and we’ve been in the top 10 overall in the league for most of the season.
We’re a confident team and we’re all anxious to get back at it.”
The Stars are in third place in the Central Division with a 37-24-8 record, 10 points back of the second-place Colorado Avalanche. However, they had lost six in a row when league play was paused on March 12.
The fact he’s even in this position seemed far fetched just four months ago. It had been 16 years since his last head coaching stint. Bowness, who has spent more than 40 years in the NHL as a player and coach, was named the Stars’ interim head coach in December after the team fired Jim Montgomery for unprofessional conduct.
Bowness, who has coached more games than anyone in NHL history, was in his second year as an assistant with the Stars.
“To be honest, I didn’t think I would get this opportunity again,” said Bowness, whose other head coaching jobs were with the Winnipeg Jets, Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, New York Islanders and Phoenix Coyotes.
“I interviewed with Anaheim a couple years ago and Ottawa last year. I’m 65 now. Honestly, I really enjoyed my other role as well, working with the defence. This wasn’t something I had applied for. The circumstances were that I’m finishing the season as head coach. I grabbed at the chance. You do the best that you can. That’s all you can do every day. It’s nice to have another kick at it but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if I didn’t either.”
Bowness has been chasing hockey’s Holy Grail since 1975 when he was a rookie winger with the Atlanta Flames. He wasn’t able to get it done during his nine-year pro playing career.
He’s been to three Stanley Cup finals. His first was in 1990 working with the Bruins, who lost in five games to the Edmonton Oilers. His most recent was in 2015 as an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in six.
The closest Bowness came was in 2011 as an associate coach with Vancouver.
The Canucks held a 3-2 series lead over the Bruins before Boston won Game 6 at home and took Game 7 3-1 in Vancouver. That loss still stays with him.
“That one stings,” Bowness said. “I’ve been to the finals a couple other times.
Hopefully before it’s all said or done, we’ll get back there again.
“But I don’t care what the job title is. The job description is completely irrelevant.
The most important thing for me is to get another kick at the Stanley Cup. That’s all that matters. I’m not sure how long I’ll be going here. I still love it. I still love going to the rink. We’ll stay with it for a little bit longer.”
Bowness, who was hired by the Stars in June 2018, three weeks after he parted ways with the Lightning, will be kept busy if the NHL doesn’t return. He’ll become a grandfather for the first time in June. He was in Arizona helping his son Ryan put together a crib during this phone interview.
In the meantime, his players have each been given an exercise bike and workout equipment during this time of social distancing. Bowness said his team will be ready, if and when, play resumes.
“They’re hoping to get us back on the ice around the first of May but again that could change. It changes by the hour,” Bowness said. “We’ll see where it all ends up.
“The big picture, we had been playing fine, good hockey,” he added. “We hit a little bit of a blip before the pause. Every team goes through it. We’ll bounce back. I’m very confident we’ll get it going once we get playing again.”