… 9-TIME STANLEY CUP WINNER, 1973, 1976 79CANADIENS;
1992PENGUINS; 1997 98, 2002RED WINGS
… NHL HALL OF FAME COACH, 1968 2002, ST. LOUIS BLUES,
MONTREAL CANADIENS, BUFFALO SABRES, PITTSBURGH
PENGUINS, DETROIT RED WINGS
If you can’t beat ‘em in the alley, you can beat ‘em on the ice.
CONN SMY THE,
original Toronto Maple Leafs owner
I wanted to be a pro player but when I got a head injury at the age of seventeen, I was through as a player, though not with the sport. I wanted to get back out there, but the headaches would not stop. It was a down time for me, no question about that.
I owe a lot to the Canadiens for what happened next in my life. They were the team I was looking to play for before my injury, and they still contacted me that summer. They offered to pay for my schooling if I worked for them, coaching some of their youth teams, so I did it. I was coaching about ten years before I finally got my first NHL post.
TAKING A RISK
I was having some success at my day job in my early twenties, moving up the ladder at the Sherwin Williams Paint Company, when I got my first full-time offer to move into hockey. My mom and dad, coming from a blue-collar background, weren’t for it because they had a hard time seeing sports as a job. But I didn’t. I left after much deliberation and I have not regretted it a day since. Ironically, those days in paint helped with my coaching because the job demanded I memorize so many stats and paint types from so many different companies. My days in paint taught me to love numbers and statistics, which helped my coaching enormously.
BOWMAN RULES: WAS THE YOUNG COACH BOWMAN ANYTHING
LIKE THE LEGENDARY BOWMAN OF TODAY?
In some ways, sure, I was always into appearance. We had a dress code and I was a stickler for showing up on time. Both these qualities came from my own family. My dad demanded it and so I was used to it. I never missed a day of school and I don’t remember my dad missing a day of work.
TRY SOMETHING… ANYTHING
I always like to try new things. So what if it turned out goofy? Maybe some of these so-called goofy ideas will work. Besides, I always wanted to be unpredictable. It makes it more difficult for your opponent to figure out what you’re going to do, and that can give you an edge. I also learned to embrace adversity, because for me, success was right behind it. I’ve always believed that you are only as good as your last game. The good coaches and players who win the Stanley Cup don’t carry their rings around with them. They know better. You win. You’re happy. And then you become a target.
The thing I’m proudest of is that I’ve lasted five decades. That’s a long career and it turned out okay. Funny thing is, when I began, people said I was too young. In the end, they were saying I was too old! I get a thrill when I learn that my former players went on to do well off the ice. It’s great because it means I may have taught them something positive, something they can use after their hockey careers have ended.
HOW SCOTTY PLAYS THE GAME
Do your best and the worst won’t happen.
For a life dedicated to hockey, Scotty had so much else going on. His parents instilled in him such great core values that he would have been good at anything he tried. The game never flew by him because he kept ahead of the curve with his dedication to innovation. That’s why his teams won so many games and so many Stanley Cups. Personally, to see him put on the skates and whiz around the rink with the Cup in Detroit showed why he claims he never worked a day in his life. It’s because he loved what he did for a living. Notice, too, that he took a chance when he left a secure job to focus on his passion. Clearly it was a risk worth taking, but how many others, I wonder, wouldn’t have taken that leap?