On This Date in Sports December 19, 1984: Bowman on Top

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Scotty Bowman of the Buffalo Sabres becomes the NHL’s all-time winningest coach with a 6-3 win over the Chicago Black Hawks. For Bowman, it is win #692 moving him past Dick Irvin. Bowman, who had won five Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens, would later win cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings before retiring with 1,244 regular-season wins in 2002.

William Scott Bowman was born on September 18, 1933, in Verdun, Quebec. His dreams of reaching the NHL as a player were forever dashed when he suffered a fractured skull when slashed by Jean-Guy Talbot. Undeterred, Bowman moved into coaching and led Ottawa Junior Canadiens in the QMJHL in 1956. His team would win the Memorial Cup in 1958. He soon moved to the professional ranks and coached the Montreal Canadiens top junior farm team the Peterborough Petes.

When hockey expanded in 1967, Scotty Bowman got his first NHL job, working as an assistant under Lynn Patrick with the St. Louis Blues. When the Blues started slowly, Patrick resigned, leading Bowman to take over behind the bench. The Blues played well under their new coach and went to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Blues would win the Western Division of expansion teams three straight seasons but were swept each season in the Stanley Cup Finals.

After a fight with Blues ownership, Scotty Bowman became the coach of the Montreal Canadiens due to his strong ability to speak both English and French. With Les Canadiens, Bowman had his greatest success recording a 419-110-105 record in eight seasons as Montreal won the Stanley Cup five times, including four straight to close out the 70s.

Looking for a new challenge after four straight champions, Scotty Bowman left the Canadiens and became the coach and General Manager of the Buffalo Sabres in 1970. Bowman Stepped aside briefly as a coach in 1980 but returned a year a half later. In 1984, Scotty Bowman began to close in on Dick Irvin’s record of 691 wins. On November 17th, the Sabres beat the Washington Capitals 3-2 for win #390. It would take more than a month for the record to fall, as the Sabres went into an extended slump. After an eight-game winless streak, the Sabres beat the Boston Bruins on December 8, 1991, to tie Irvin’s win record. The Sabres’ next four games ended in a tie before record fell at Chicago Stadium.

Scotty Bowman’s years in Buffalo were rather unsatisfying, as he was fired in 1986. Over the next three years, Bowman worked on CBC during its hockey coverage. He returned to the league as the Director of Player Personnel with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990. In 1991 after the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, Bowman returned to the bench to replace Bob Johnson, who tragically lost his bout with brain cancer. Bowman led Pittsburgh to a second straight Stanley Cup in 1992.

After leading the Penguins to the league’s best record in 1993, Scotty Bowman moved on to the Detroit Red Wings, after he was unable to work out a contract with the Penguins. With Detroit, Bowman’s success continued as he became the first coach to win the Stanley Cup with three different teams in 1997. Bowman’s Wings won a second straight Stanley Cup in 1998 as he became the first coach to win Stanley Cups with three different teams. It was also his eighth overall win, tying the record held by Toe Blake. In 2002, Scotty Bowman retired, winning one last Stanley Cup with the Red Wings to set a new record with nine championships as a head coach.

Scotty Bowman retired with a record of 1,244-573-314. His 1,244 career wins remain the record by far, as Joel Quenneville, the current coach of the Florida Panthers is the closest and trails my more than 300 wins.