11 years ago today, Scotty Bowman said goodbye – in perfect fashion

Head coach Scotty Bowman hoists the Stanley Cup trophy after the Wings won it all in 2002. He announced his retirement moments later.

Head coach Scotty Bowman hoists the Stanley Cup trophy after the Red Wings won it all in 2002. He announced his retirement moments later.

When the clock struck zero, Chris Chelios jumped on his skates toward Dominik Hasek, confetti rained from the Joe Louis Arena rafters, and the Detroit Red Wings celebrated their 10th Stanley Cup in franchise history.

But the 3-1 victory in Game 5 against the Carolina Hurricanes came with a sobering message before any champagne was poured: Scotty Bowman’s 30-season run as the best coach in NHL history was coming to an end.

This was it.

He was retiring.

“He said that to me after the game ended, right away,” Wings captain Steve Yzerman told CBC on the night of June 13, 2002. “All I can think of is: What a tremendous job he’s done with our team. He turned our organization around, and he taught everyone what’s important, what you have to do to win.

“We won three Stanley Cups with him. He turned it all around for us.”

Bowman’s contributions still echo inside the famed walls of Joe Louis Arena today.

The franchise model – “The Red Wing way,” if you will – seeks to scout and draft forwards who concentrate on the defensive zone. That was a part of Bowman’s philosophy, and it started with Yzerman, a prolific goal scorer who transitioned into a two-way forward and Selke Trophy winner.

It came with frustration, but that was part of Bowman’s style. He was a master motivator who often drove players wild, but their defiance to prove him wrong drove them into winners.

“He’d get the best out of everybody. It’s as simple as that,” defenseman Steve Duchesne said. “There were times I wanted to hug him and give him a kiss, and the other times I wanted to strangle him.

“But I will never forget what he did for me.”

Bowman exited with an all-time record 1,244 regular-season victories and an incredible 223 playoff wins.

The funny thing is, he won the Jack Adams award as coach of the year just twice, but very easily could have won it every year.

His tactics and attention to detail were unmatched by his peers – and that dates back to his legendary days in Montreal as head coach of the Canadiens.

“I remember the reporters here in Montreal just in awe of how many times that Scotty would mix his lines,” said Larry Robinson, a Canadiens legend and Hall of Famer. “He had the other teams so baffled, they didn’t know who was coming out, and when, and why.
“That was Scotty.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody handle his lines – and be mixing lines and mixing players – and being [in] control of the game as much as Scotty.”

Bowman took charge of the Wings in the 1993-’94 season and left a stamp on the organization that rivals legends Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Terry Sawchuk, and Yzerman.

In Bowman’s second season, the Wings reached the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 29 years. The following season, he recorded an NHL-record 62 victories.

Then he took the next step and ended the franchise’s 42-year Cup drought with a sweep of Philadelphia in the 1997 Finals.

“I feel real good about this one, because it’s been so long since the Red Wings have won it,” said Bowman, who wore his skates during that special celebration on June 7, 1997. “I had a [big] part in the last two years, three years, in adding players.

“The confidence the management and ownership showed in me, I’m glad it’s a little bit of a payback.”

It was Bowman who traded Ray Sheppard to San Jose in exchange for Igor Larionov, which gave birth to the Russian Five. And it was Bowman who made the ultimate deal to push the Wings over the hump: He traded Paul Coffey and Keith Primeau to Hartford in exchange for rugged right wing superstar Brendan Shanahan.

Later, Bowman performed the unthinkable: He lured once-despised defenseman Chris Chelios from arch-rival Chicago and put him in a Red Wings sweater.

“He really salvaged my career, and gave me a second life,” Chelios said.

Bowman always talked about his dislike for the number 13, yet his career ended on June 13 in special fashion: He was the first to receive the Cup from Yzerman, yet another chapter in a storybook career for a legend who surpassed Toe Blake with his record ninth Stanley Cup.

“There will be no more Scotty Bowmans,” Wings senior vice president Jimmy Devellano said. “He’s the last of the Mohicans.
“He’s the last of a breed.”

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