Winnipeg Jets reach into past, hire Rick Bowness as next head coach

After a lengthy search that included number one choice Barry Trotz choosing not to return behind an NHL bench this season, the Winnipeg Jets have hired Rick Bowness to become the third head coach in the 2.0 version of the franchise.

The former Dallas Stars and Jets 1.0 bench boss succeeds Dave Lowry, who was not offered a contract after going 26-22-6. Lowry was working on an interim basis following the December 17 resignation of Paul Maurice, who has since accepted the head coaching position of the Florida Panthers.

“We’re very excited to hire Rick Bowness as the third head coach of Jets 2.0,” said Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff in a news release. “Rick brings a wealth of experience and knowledge, both in the NHL coaching ranks and as a player and coach in the city of Winnipeg. Rick is a fantastic hockey mind and an even better person and we’re confident he will lead this team to new heights.”

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Bowness, 67, returns to Winnipeg after playing 45 games for the Jets during the 1980-81 season, serving as an assistant coach from 1984-87 and then taking over as head coach of the Jets for the final 28 games in 1988-89 after the late Dan Maloney was fired.

Over the course of his lengthy professional coaching career, which began in 1982-83 as a player coach in Sherbrooke of the AHL, the Moncton-born Bowness was the first-ever head coach of his hometown AHL Hawks in their inaugural season in 1987-88 –  as well as the Ottawa Senators for their expansion season of 1992-93 after guiding the Boston Bruins to the Conference Finals in the playoffs the year before.

The popular and highly respected Bowness has also held head coaching positions with the NY Islanders and Phoenix Coyote. That was prior to being promoted in Dallas during the 2019-20 campaign, following the firing of Jim Montgomery by the Stars on Dec 10, 2019, due to “unprofessional conduct.”

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Ironically, Montgomery was reportedly considered among the front runners for the vacant head coaching position in Winnipeg, along with the likes of Rick Tocchet, Pascal Vincent and Scott Arniel.

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“Bones,” as he is known in hockey circles, coached Dallas to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final in the Edmonton Bubble and stayed on as head coach for the following two seasons. He then stepped down on May 20 after the Stars were eliminated in seven games by Calgary during the first round of the playoffs in 2022.

“After careful consideration with my wife, Judy, we feel it’s best to step away and allow the organization the opportunity to pursue a different direction at the head coaching position,” Bowness said following the official announcement from the Stars.

“I’d like to thank all the passionate fans and the dedicated staff for their support and hard work in my time here. It has been an honour for me, and my family, to represent the Stars and the city of Dallas.”

In addition to compiling a 212-351-48-28 record in 639 games as an NHL head coach, Bowness has also enjoyed plenty of success as an assistant coach under Alain Vigneault in Vancouver from 2006-13 and under Jon Cooper in Tampa Bay from 2013-18.

Bowness takes over a team that, admittedly, has underachieved in 2021-22. The Jets went 39-32-11 and ended in sixth place in the Central Division, missing the playoffs for the seventh time in 11 post-seasons since the franchise relocated from Atlanta.

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“I’m tremendously excited for the opportunity presented to me by Kevin Cheveldayoff, Mark Chipman and the ownership group to serve as the head coach of the Winnipeg Jets,” said Bowness in the team news release. “It’s amazing that forty years after the original Jets gave me my first taste of coaching, I get to return to Manitoba to lead this talented group of players in front of such a passionate fan base.”

There is the possibility some significant changes to the current roster could occur prior to the start of training camp during the third full week of September.

An official news conference to introduce Bowness to the media and fans is set for 11:30 a.m. on Monday in Winnipeg prior to the start of NHL entry draft week in Montreal.

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg brewery to Trotz: Free beer for life to coach Jets'
Winnipeg brewery to Trotz: Free beer for life to coach Jets

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