Jets coach Rick Bowness announces retirement after long career
Rick Bowness. James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Jets head coach Rick Bowness announced his retirement Monday through a statement released by Winnipeg.

Bowness, 69, had mulled retirement two seasons ago after the Stars announced he wouldn’t be returning as their bench boss, but he was offered a two-year agreement with a one-year club option from the Jets to stay in the game. Speaking to reporters last week, Bowness said the team hadn’t yet decided on whether or not to exercise its option and that he needed to talk with his family and the team about his future.

After a 40-year career behind NHL benches as a head coach and assistant, Bowness was named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award for the first time last week. He guided Winnipeg to a second-place finish in the Central Division this season with 110 points and 52 wins, the latter of which tied for the most in Jets/Thrashers franchise history.

Bowness began his time in the NHL as a player. After being selected in the second round of the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft by the Atlanta Flames, Bowness made his NHL debut the following season.

The right winger didn’t establish himself as an everyday NHLer until a move to the Red Wings in 1977; the team acquired him for cash that summer. He played a career-high 61 games that season before spending the next three seasons as a major-league/minor-league tweener with the Blues and Jets organization, last suiting up in the NHL for the previous incarnation of Winnipeg with 25 points in 45 games in the 1980-81 campaign.

Still playing in the Jets organization, Bowness began his career in coaching as a player-coach for AHL Sherbrooke in 1982-83. He didn’t coach the team during his final season as a player with Sherbrooke in 1983-84 but took a job as an NHL assistant with the Jets immediately after retiring. 

He remained in an assistant role in Winnipeg until 1987, when the organization reassigned him to the minors to become the head coach of their new AHL affiliate in Moncton. A year-and-a-half later, Bowness was back in the NHL — this time getting his first shot as a head coach in the majors. 

He was the interim boss for the back half of the 1988-89 campaign after Winnipeg fired Dan Maloney midseason. It wasn’t terribly successful, though, and he wasn’t brought back after finishing the season with an 8-17-3 record.

Bowness immediately landed with the Bruins organization and spent the following three seasons there — two as the head coach of AHL Maine and one as Boston’s head coach. He guided the team to a 36-32-12 record in 1991-92 and a Conference Final loss to the Penguins, the eventual Stanley Cup champions.

In the summer of 1992, he headed to the expansion Senators to serve as the first coach in franchise history. Nobody could have bolstered one of the most poorly assembled rosters in league history, though, and Bowness led the struggling franchise to a 39-178-18 record (.204 points percentage) before being let go midway through his fourth season in Canada’s capital.

Bowness spent the next 20-plus years working for the Islanders, Coyotes, Canucks, Lightning and Stars, mainly serving as an assistant or associate. He was briefly the head coach of the Isles for a time in 1997 and 1998 and served as the interim bench boss for the Coyotes in 2003-04 for the final 20 games of the season.

After going 2-12-3-3 down the stretch with Phoenix, Bowness wouldn’t get another try as a head coach for another 15 years. He took over as interim for Dallas midway through the 2019-20 campaign after Jim Montgomery was dismissed due to unprofessional conduct, later revealed to be an alcohol-related incident that led Montgomery to seek treatment for alcoholism and eventually return behind the bench for the Bruins last year. 

Going 20-13-5 until COVID paused the season, Bowness returned in the bubble playoffs and oversaw the Stars’ first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 20 years.

Dallas fell to the Lightning and missed the playoffs the following shortened season but returned to postseason play under Bowness in 2022. After going 46-30-6 and losing in the first round to the Flames, though, the Stars and Bowness mutually parted ways, paving the way for him to return to where his coaching career started in Winnipeg.

Bowness ended his career on a high note, posting a 98-57-9 record and guiding the Jets to back-to-back playoff appearances, even though they both resulted in quick first-round exits. He officially exits the game after 38 seasons behind an NHL bench, with parts of 14 coming as a head coach. His career record stands at 310-408-48-37 in 803 games, a .439 points percentage.

Winnipeg now becomes the seventh team with an active head coach vacancy. No candidates have been linked to the job yet.

This article first appeared on Pro Hockey Rumors and was syndicated with permission.

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