The Winnipeg Jets reintroduced new head coach Rick Bowness to fans today, after the team officially appointed the former Winnipeg player and coach to once again lead the team over the weekend.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and Bowness held a news conference Monday morning, where Bowness fielded questions about his decision.
He said heading into the post-season, he wasn’t seriously considering getting back into coaching, and turned down three assistant coaching offers from teams that weren’t in a position to win.
“I wasn’t going to go back to coaching for the sake of coaching. I didn’t need a job — I don’t need a job. I want to have a chance to win,” he said.
“What I wanted to do was work with a good team that has a chance, and this team has a chance.”
On Sunday, the NHL team announced Bowness as its new head coach, taking over from Dave Lowry, who was named interim head coach after Paul Maurice stepped down in December following nearly nine years as Jets head coach. Maurice is now the head coach of the Florida Panthers.
Bowness, 67, comes to Winnipeg after spending most of the past three NHL seasons with the Dallas Stars, where he put up a 89-62-25 record in 176 regular season games and led the team to the Stanley Cup final in 2020.
That points to Bowness’s skill as a coach, said Cheveldayoff.
“You don’t take a team to the Stanley Cup [final] just by luck,” the GM said.
However, Cheveldayoff addressed the fact Bowness wasn’t his first choice for the job. Barry Trotz, a Winnipeg native and former New York Islanders head coach, recently turned down a coaching offer from the Jets.
But Bowness said he has no hard feelings about being second in line.
“Listen, if I am in [Cheveldayoff’s] chair, I am going after Trotzy too,” said Bowness. “I would’ve done the same thing.”
Cheveldayoff said Bowness was his immediate second choice due to his experience in the league, his easy and engaging personality, and because he knows he’ll hold the team accountable.
“Rick is a guy who is going to come in here … not a ‘my way or the highway’ [approach], but it’s a strong approach to getting this team back on track,” Cheveldayoff said.
“Rick is the type of guy that I think is up for the challenge.”
He also confirmed Scott Arniel — whom Bowness coached in Winnipeg and Boston — will join the Jets as an assistant coach.
Arniel played for the Jets in the 1980s and later the Manitoba Moose, before returning as coach of that team. He has held several head coach and assistant coaching gigs in the NHL over the past couple decades.
Team ‘lost its way last year’: Bowness
Bowness’s playing career included stints with Atlanta, Detroit, St. Louis and Winnipeg.
He played and coached for the Jets organization for nine seasons in the 1980s. That included a season as a player-coach for the Jets AHL affiliate in Sherbrooke, Que., in 1982-83, before retiring and moving into an assistant coach position with Winnipeg the following season.
He was also briefly head coach of the Jets in 1989.
Bowness said now that he’s back, he is committed to making Winnipeg a playoff team again, after the Jets finished with a 39-32-11 record and failed to make the playoffs last season.
Part of the work will include tough conversations, communicating expectations with players and fostering a positive attitude in the locker room, he said.
Bowness said he is excited to get to work.
“This is a really good hockey club and for whatever reason it lost its way last year, and myself and the coaching staff, when we get it all together, we’re going to work very closely with ownership, management and everyone associated with this organization,” he said.
“We’re going to get this team back in the playoffs.”
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