In 1967, the Montreal minor club let Bowman out of his contract a year early so that he could assist Lynn Patrick in coaching the expansion team the St. Louis Blues. Patrick said, “After 16 games I found that the general manager’s job is a full-time position, so I decided to appoint Bowman immediately.” This made 32-year-old Bowman the youngest NHL coach. It took three games before Bowman saw a victory, when the Blues defeated the visiting Los Angeles Kings 3-2. Bowman took the Blues to the Stanley Cup finals three times in his four seasons there before handing the reigns to Al Arbour.Bowman then went on to coach the Montreal Canadiens throughout the 1970s, leading them to five Stanley Cup championships. Although he spent most of the next decade with the Buffalo Sabres, they did not have the same kind of talent as the Canadiens. When Bowman retired in 1987, he worked as an analyst on Hockey Night in Canada. Although he was admitted to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a Builder in 1991, he soon returned to coaching, working with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He led them to a repeat Stanley Cup victory in 1992.
For his final decade as coach, Bowman coached the Detroit Red Wings. There, he introduced the Russian Five and broke the team’s 42-year drought of Stanley Cup wins in 1997 and 1998. Right after winning the Stanley Cup championship again in 2002, Bowman hoisted the Cup and officially announced his retirement.
Bowman had 9 Stanley Cup wins, 1,244 regular-season wins, 223 playoff wins, and a .654 winning percentage. He tops the list for coaches in every category.
- Stephen Laroche, Changing the Game: A History of NHL Expansion (Toronto: ECW Press, 2014), 146-151.