Until he took the Dallas Stars to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020, Rick Bowness had made a career out of being the guy who was always there when a coach needed firing and replacing. He picked up for Dan Maloney in Winnipeg (the first Winnipeg, not the current one) in 1988, then for Mike Milbury with the New York Islanders in 1997, then for Bobby Francis in Phoenix (the old Winnipeg) in 2004. He also had gigs in Vancouver under Alain Vigneault (and got fired with him instead of replacing him) and Tampa (helping Jon Cooper before getting canned).
It’s accurate to say that Bowness had built a reputation as the guy who tried to fix your car after you wrapped it around a tree. By the time he went to Dallas under Jim Montgomery, he was considered a re-re-re-retread whose time as a potential head coach was done. Instead, when the team fired Montgomery in December 2019 for “unprofessional conduct,” Bowness was asked to step in temporarily, and he had the effrontery to take the Stars to the Final. He is an inspiration to anyone who has ever had a winning percentage of .298.
But until Monday night, he just seemed like an easy guy to hire who had finally broken through. His skills as a players’ coach hadn’t yet been captured for all to enjoy.
For the link-averse, the Stars fell behind to the Columbus Blue Jackets 1-0 in the first period and 2-0 in the second, so Bowness called a timeout and slowly but purposefully turned his 66-year-old face into a time-lapsed ripening tomato while offering the following words of support to his plucky but harried players:
“Where’s the fucking fight? There’s no passion in that game! Everybody’s just going through the motions! Fuck off! What play is that? Fuck off!”
Then, considering the sensitive nature of the modern athlete and the words of positive coaching devotees across the continent, he gathered himself and recalibrated his message.
“Where’s the fucking fight! Jesus Christ!”
By this point, Bowness’s face had become a bright, even florid pink, setting off both his gray suit but the tie as well. Never mind that the Stars gave up two more goals and lost 4-1. Rick Bowness is exactly the coach you’d want when you needed to be told to fuck off, and let’s face it, everyone could use that from time to time. In fact, I have a list of about 67,000 people (and growing) who could use that right now.