ANALYSIS: Retiring coach Rick Bowness left indelible mark on the game of hockey

It was fitting — and a little ironic — that on a day when the ice was being removed from Canada Life Centre for the season, Rick Bowness removed himself from the game for good.

After a return to Winnipeg and after two years as the Jets head coach in their new era, the 69-year-old officially retired from hockey on Monday, citing what he called “life changing moments.” Those moments included health issues: those of his own with COVID and those of his wife, Judy, who suffering a seizure last fall.

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The decision, he said, was made as he was walking off the ice following the Jets’ elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs last Tuesday, which made Monday’s timely announcement more appropriate in order to avoid speculation about his future with the team.

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For the man everyone in the game calls “Bones,” it was a sterling career, one that spanned five decades, over 2,700 games, and stints in nine NHL cities, including Winnipeg twice, thus completing his coaching circle that began with the Jets in 1984.

As an assistant, associate and head coach, Bowness evolved his skills through years, experiencing the scrappy ’70s, the high scoring ’80s, the dead-puck ’90s, and the high tempo 2000s. Through it all, his best qualities like honesty, accountability and keen communication never wavered as a lifer in the game. As he said himself, “hockey is my life; it’s all I know.”

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By his own admission, when he was hired by the Jets two summers ago, it was to accomplish three items: improve the team’s defence, get the club back to the playoffs and — of primary focus — improve the team’s culture. He leaves with all three boxes checked — in black felt, no less.

That, undoubtedly, will be his legacy as the Jets’ head coach in this city.

And so, it is with creative licence that we alter an old adage to conclude: Rick Bowness might have removed himself from the game on Monday, but the game will never remove itself from Rick Bowness.

Click to play video: 'RAW: Winnipeg Jets Rick Bowness Retirement Announcement'

RAW: Winnipeg Jets Rick Bowness Retirement Announcement

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