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Rick Bowness will not return as head coach of the Dallas Stars after nearly three seasons in which he led them to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final and the playoffs again this year.
While Bowness was not under contract past this season, the 67-year-old coach said in a statement released by the team Friday that he was stepping away to “allow the organization the opportunity to pursue a different direction at the head coaching position.” The move doesn't necessarily mean Bowness is done coaching.
General manager Jim Nill said assistant coaches John Stevens, Derek Laxdal and Todd Nelson also would not return.
Bowness has been on an NHL bench for a record 2,562 regular-season games as a head coach or an assistant over nearly four decades. He was 89-62-25 as head coach in Dallas, where he was a second-year assistant before being named interim head coach in December 2019 after Jim Montgomery was fired for off-ice issues.
After the Stars made the Stanley Cup Final in that pandemic-altered 2019-20 season, the interim tag was removed and Bowness got a two-year contract.
“Rick is one of the most respected and beloved individuals to have ever coached in the NHL,” Nill said. “His dedication and commitment to the game, and the impact that he’s made on countless players, coaches and support staff throughout his five decades in the league is unmatched. He has dedicated his life to our game, and we are honored to say that the Dallas Stars are part of his legacy."
A hockey lifer, Bowness said after the season ended with an overtime loss in Game 7 of the first-round series at favored Calgary that he still has the passion to keep coaching. He said he would have opportunities to coach if he wanted them.
“I'll have options, let’s put it that way. If I want them, the options will be there. I’m confident in that,” Bowness said during a season-ending media availability Tuesday. “You guys, you don’t know yet, you’re going to miss me when I’m gone.”
Bowness' stint as the Stars interim head coach included the 4 1/2-month pause in the season because of the pandemic and two months in a postseason bubble in Canada. There was then a shortened, 56-game season last year when the Stars had an NHL-high 14 losses after regulation and missed the playoffs.
“When he was called upon to lead our team a few seasons ago, he stepped into the role seamlessly and helped guide our team through unprecedented global events that affected our players and staff both on and off the ice,” said Nill, who has one year left on his contract.
Dallas went into this year's playoffs as a wildcard team, but its 98 points were a total the team had reached only once the previous 14 seasons.
Scotty Bowman and Pat Quinn, both members of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Bowness are the only other head coaches with games in five different decades. Bowness did so with Winnipeg (1989), Boston (1991-92), Ottawa (1992-96), the New York Islanders (1996-98), Phoenix (2004) and Dallas (2019-22). He also was an assistant for Vancouver and Tampa Bay.
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Stephen Hawkins, The Associated Press