In describing a sports legend, the phrase “His record speaks for itself” is often used. In the case of William Scott Bowman, it is records. Having completed his eighth regular season (2000-01) as Detroit’s head coach and his 29th in the National Hockey League, Bowman’s list of records and milestones continues to mount as he punctuates his position as a legend in the world of sports. He enters this season with an astounding 1,400 overall victories in the National Hockey League combining the regular season and the playoffs. Bowman has been referred to by Sports Illustrated as “the best coach ever in a major professional sport,” and a recent fan poll conducted by ESPN ranked Bowman fourth in the top 10 Greatest Coaches of the 20th Century.
Bowman has his name engraved upon the Stanley Cup nine times, including eight as a head coach for a record he shares with the legendary Toe Blake. In capping Detroit’s back-to-back championships in 1997 and 1998 that both included four-game sweeps in the final rounds, Bowman increased his Stanley Cup Finals record to 32-21, which matches the mark for most coaching wins in the finals held by Blake and Dick Irvin, Sr. Bowman has coached an NHL team into the Stanley Cup Finals 12 times, including three of the last seven, for his eight cup victories. Only Irvin has been to the finals more with 16 appearances.
Already a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and the winningest coach in National Hockey League history with regular-season victories and games coached, Bowman met a seemingly unreachable milestone on Feb. 8, 1997 at Pittsburgh with his 1,000th career win. Among his other remarkable achievements, Bowman also is the only coach in NHL history to guide a team to a 60-win season, achieving the mark twice (1977 and 1996); has an NHL record 207 Stanley Cup Playoff victories; and is one of only two coaches in the four major sports to win a championship with three different teams (professional football’s Guy Chamberlin with Canton, 1922 & ’23, Cleveland, 1924, and Frankford, 1926). He has coached 64 playoff series and won 45. Among those coaching a minimum of 65 postseason games, Bowman’s .653 winning percentage is third after Glen Sather (.706) and Blake (.689).
He is the only coach to register 1,000 victories overall in the regular season and playoffs combined. The win total is 1,400 following the 2000-01 regular season and playoffs — 1,193-562-304 in 2,059 regular-season games and 207-123 in 330 playoff contests. He has the best regular-season winning percentage (.653) of anyone who has coached at least 600 regular-season games.
When Detroit won the Central Division in 2000-01, it was Bowman’s 15th division title. Seven times his teams have been first overall in the NHL, and one of his clubs tied for the best record. Bowman’s teams have amassed 100 or more points 14 times and missed the playoffs only twice.
In 1995-96, he led the Red Wings to their second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy, posting a 62-13-7 mark for a franchise-best 131 points. Their 62 wins set an NHL record for wins in a season topping the 19-year old record of 60 set by Bowman’s 1976-77 Montréal Canadiens. The four best victory and point totals in NHL history belong to Bowman coached teams (62 wins and 131 points by Detroit in 1995-96; 60 wins and 132 points by Montréal in 1976-77; 59 wins and 129 points by Montréal in 1977-78; and 58 wins and 127 points by Montréal in 1975-76). Also in the 1995-96 campaign, Detroit captured it’s third consecutive Central Division title and led the Western Conference in points.
On December 29, 1995 at Dallas, Bowman set a new NHL record for most games coached with 1,607, surpassing Al Arbour. He reached the 900 mark in regular-season victories March 25, 1995 at Vancouver after posting his 1,000th overall triumph the season before on Feb. 2, 1994 at Tampa Bay.
Bowman, who will turn 68 on September 18, 2001, became the 22nd head coach in Detroit history on June 15, 1993. On June 24, 1994, he added the title of director of player personnel, a post he held through the 1996-97 season.
Before coming to Detroit, Bowman had coached Pittsburgh the previous two seasons, including a Cup title in 1992. Scotty had earned another Stanley Cup ring in 1991 when he was Pittsburgh’s director of player development and recruitment. In 1991-92, Bowman took the reins as the Penguins’ coach when the late Bob Johnson became ill. Scotty remained in the dual role through the 1992-93 season.
Bowman changed roles in 1987 by working for CBC-TV’s “Hockey Night in Canada.” Prior to joining the HN
team, Bowman spent seven seasons as the Buffalo Sabres’ general manager and head coach. He won a division title in his first year behind the Buffalo bench in 1979-80.
In 1971, Bowman moved to Montréal, where he earlier had worked and coached in the Canadiens’ minor league system. Bowman achieved remarkable success in leading the fabled Canadiens franchise. He won the Stanley Cup five times (1973 and 1976 though 1979) and rank up six division titles in eight seasons. In seven of his eight years with Montréal, the Canadiens notched more than 100 points and missed the mark just once with 99. The 1976-77 club still holds the NHL record for fewest defeats (8) in a season of 70 or more games.
Bowman broke into the NHL coaching ranks with the St. Louis Blues in the 1967-68 season, when the NHL expanded from six to 12 teams. The Blues advanced to the Cup final in each of their first three seasons and won two division titles.
Bowman also is a proven winner at the international level, coaching Team Canada to the 1976 Canada Cup title. He guided Team Canada in the 1981 Canada Cup and the NHL All-Stars in a three-game series against the Soviet Union in 1979.
Scotty has been named winner of the Jack Adams Award on two occasions (1996 with Detroit and 1977 with Montréal) and was runner-up three times (1995 and 2001 with Detroit and 1984 with Buffalo). On March 23, 2001 he was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for outstanding service to hockey in the United States. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991.
Bowman was born Sept. 18, 1933 in Montréal. He and wife Suella spend the off-season in suburban Buffalo. The have five children — Alicia, David, Stanley, Bob and Nancy-and one grandchild.