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Jets head coach Rick Bowness calls it quits after 38-season NHL career

Click to play video: 'Jets head coach Rick Bowness calls it quits after 38-season NHL career'
Jets head coach Rick Bowness calls it quits after 38-season NHL career
Rick Bowness calls it quits after 38-season NHL coaching career – May 6, 2024

After leading the Winnipeg Jets to one of the most successful regular seasons in franchise history, head coach Rick Bowness is hanging up the skates.

Bowness, 69, announced his retirement Monday after coaching 38 seasons in the NHL — days after he was selected as a finalist for this year’s Jack Adams Award, honouring the league’s top coach.

He made the decision shortly after their playoff elimination in Game 5.

“As I was standing there and I was looking around, it dawned on me,” said Bowness.

“I’ve talked to the older coaches, older than me, and they’ve always said, ‘you’ll know (when) it’s time’. And when I was looking around, I wasn’t happy with the job I had done, and it just hit me then. It’s time.

“I told the coaches an hour later that I’m done, I’m finished, I’m going to retire… I knew in my heart it was time.”

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With 2,726 games behind an NHL bench, Bowness holds the NHL record for games coached, and he’s one of only three coaches in league history to have served as a coach in five different decades — an elite group that includes Hall of Famers Scotty Bowman and Pat Quinn.

Bowness’ coaching career made stops with eight different NHL franchises, but it ends where it all started after joining the Jets as an assistant coach in 1984.

“It’s kind of poetic, in a way,” said Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. “To have him getting his first coaching job in the National Hockey League here in Winnipeg and coming full circle.”

Bowness missed a stretch this past season to tend to his wife after a seizure, while also going on his own medical leave in March to undergo a minor procedure. The medical situations, he said, factored into the decision to retire as he didn’t want to leave the Jets in a lurch.

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“Those are life-changing moments,” said Bowness.

“I’m still dealing with some minor issues that I’ve got to get resolved. The last thing I wanted to happen was to me to come to Chevy and (Mark Chipman) in November and say, ‘I can’t do this anymore’.

“There was no way I was going to let that happen.”

Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Rick Bowness Retirement Announcement'
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Rick Bowness Retirement Announcement

Bowness said his biggest disappointment was not taking the Jets further. While the only thing missing from his coaching resume is a Stanley Cup, he has no regrets.

He said hopes to stay around the game while also spending more time with his grandkids in retirement. Bowness called many players last night to give them the heads up and he got emotional talking about the impact he’s left on his players.

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“I just love the game,” he said. “And I respected the game. I love this league. I respect the league. I hope over my career that it’s not (just about) 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, off the ice, and that’s been more important to me over the last 10 years.”

As of this past season, he was the last active NHL coach to have been behind the bench in the 1980s.

During his time with the current incarnation of the Jets, Bowness posted a 98-57-9 record, as well as two playoff appearances, plus a personal highlight when he was named an all-star — but his connection to Winnipeg dates back much further.

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In a professional playing career from 1975 to 1984, Bowness spent 45 games in a Jets uniform, and went on to become an assistant coach for the first NHL incarnation of the Jets shortly after retirement as a player. In 1988-89, he was the Jets’ head coach for 28 games.

After the current Jets’ early ouster in round one of the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs, Bowness told media he was mulling his future, ultimately deciding to call it quits Monday.

Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Rick Bowness Interview – May 2'
RAW: Winnipeg Jets Rick Bowness Interview – May 2

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