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ND HOCKEY: Bowman speaks at event

Kyle Cassily | Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Irish hockey coach Jeff Jackson pinches himself every morning when he approaches campus and spots the Golden Dome gleaming in the early sun, just to remind himself how lucky he is. And everyone in attendance to hear legendary professional hockey coach Scotty Bowman speak at the opening hockey banquet on Tuesday night couldn’t help but have the same reaction in the presence of a man so influential to his game.

Bowman was asked to speak at the Drop the Puck Dinner to kick off the 2005-06 hockey season by Jackson, where the big-name guest mingled with players and fans alike.

Bowman is widely considered one of the greatest hockey coaches of all time, a label shared with his mentor and winner of eight Stanley Cups, Toe Blake. Bowman learned the ins and outs of the NHL game from Blake as a junior coach for the Montreal Canadiens.

No other coach in history has won more NHL games than Bowman, nor has any drunk from the Cup more times – nine total, five with Montreal, one with Pittsburgh, and three with Detroit. And he goes about it all with the right attitude.

“I think the most important attribute a person can have is his or her own attitude, just because I’ve seen a lot of situations where I’ve had to make decisions on players, whether to keep them or whether to play them or whatever the reason is, and it came down usually to attitude,” Bowman said. “I think the individual attitude of the person is probably 90 percent of the battle of being successful.”

Bowman described his climb up the professional coaching ladder, starting as a coach in the Montreal Canadiens junior system and culminating with his final Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002.

“I had the feeling that maybe I should get out on top while I can,” Bowman said, describing his decision to leave the hockey world after 2002. He now spends time traveling with his wife and winters in Florida, where he catches many Tampa Bay Lightning games.

Bowman littered his tale with anecdotes of people who have influenced him and funny tales from the ice. One night as coach of the St. Louis Blues, Bowman set a curfew for his players. He then grabbed a stick and gave it to the bellhop promising $10 an autograph that the bellhop got after the curfew. The next day in practice he had six autographs and showed the awestruck curfew-breaking icers their mistake.

Throughout the speech, Bowman made reference that his success has been aided by a strong ownership supporting his moves.

“They [the owners] wanted to have good teams,” he said. “They left no stone unturned. That and the fact that I did the job for a long time. It was a lot easier the last decade coaching than it was in my first.”

Bowman had nothing but praise of Jackson.

“He’s a well-experienced guy,” he said. “He knows how to get a team together. It’s going to take some time, but he has a lot of good ideas.”

In a pre-speech closed gathering, Bowman spoke of the challenges Jackson faces in turning around the Irish.

“You have to figure out the best way to win with what you’ve got,” he said. “There are different ways to win. You can’t change overnight; you can’t just bring players in when you have a college team. He’s been at Lake Superior State, they were not a hockey power, but he made them a hockey power.”

The legendary coach concluded his speech with a reflection on his entire career and what it has meant to him,

“You have to have passion to do your job,” Bowman said. “I never thought of it as a job; I’ve had other jobs, but have had no better feelings than in coaching when you take 25 guys and reach that pinnacle of success.”