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An interview with legendary coach Scotty Bowman

As part of a show titled Replay on Fox Sports Net, Catholic Central and Trenton High School will re-play a game stopped in 1999 from a gruesome injury that nearly cost Trenton's Kurt LaTarte his life. The game was stopped and no winner was declared following the stoppage. Gatorade and Fox Sports have teamed up to let the teams go at it, 11 years later. This time around, the coaches will be Detroit Red Wings legends Brendan Shanahan and Scotty Bowman.

I had the great honor of talking to the NHL's all-time leader in wins for coaches, Scotty Bowman, via phone yesterday about the Replay episode and of course the Red Wings. You can bet I was nervous/thrilled/terrified to talk to the coach with more Stanley Cup rings than the rest of the active head coaches in the league combined.

WIM: You've coached some of the best teams in the history of the NHL, how does the 2001-2002 Red Wings team rank as far as your coaching experiences?

Scotty Bowman: It's not easy in the NHL to go and have a regular season and top it off with a Stanley Cup. We had great teams before, one in '95 that won 62 games, but you can't say it was as good a team because they didn't win the final game.

The rest of the interview with Bowman is after the jump...

WIM: How long before the 2002 Cup did you know you were retiring?

SB: Around February of that same year. It was an Olympic year and we had an Olympic break for about 10 days and that's when I kind of decided in my own mind. I didn't want to have it hanging over everybody's head for the next couple of months so I just didn't mention it.

WIM: How hard was it coaching the team the season following Vladimir Konstantinov's injury? Surely it was an emotionally charged but also very driven locker room.

SB: It was a tough situation because after finally winning a Stanley Cup after so long and not being able to really have as much fun with it. The fact that it was within a week after the Cup win that he had that really terrible accident with Sergei Mnatsakanov so it was a tough time for the team. They rallied behind him and he did appear quite a bit during the next season. To top it off, in the last game he was there and the players recognized how much he meant to the team and it was a heartwarming feeling for everyone that he was on the ice to share in the Cup win.

WIM: Which Red Wing would you say was the most coachable in terms of doing what was asked of him and a willingness to learn?

SB: It would not be fair just to name one. Obviously, the captain Steve Yzerman was a huge part of any team that I was with because of the way he took the opportunity to play offense and defense. We were fortunate that present-captain Nick Lidstrom has been a standout for the team for the last 18 years. There were a lot of leaders on that team but Steve was the one that really got everyone going. They just knew what such an honest player he was.

WIM: Which player had the most impact on you as a coach? Throughout your entire career, not necessarily just with the Red Wings.

SB: I had so many [players] that it's hard to pick one because I've been with different teams. Every team had leaders and you don't win without leaders. Having a Mario Lemieux with you was special as well and Montreal had a lot of great players at the same time so it's hard to pick out one.

WIM: A lot of the critics have said that the Red Wings "dynasty" is at the end of its run. Do you see that being the case or is it just a new era of great hockey beginning in Detroit?

SB: There's a lot of parity in the league right now and to be able to stay up and be a contender year in and year out. I don't know if "dynasty" is a fair word as much as is "consistency". It's not easy now because the system has changed and the game has changed. Not only has there been a new [Collective Bargaining] Agreement but the game has changed itself with so many different changes in the rules. When you have all those changes, to keep up the pace is a special feeling. I think they've proved they've got a lot of good players in the system and they make the right changes at the right time. You need leadership though, your experienced players are so important to the team.

WIM: As some of the Red Wings like Lidstrom, Holmstrom, Draper, Maltby and Osgood are getting towards retirement, where do you see the team going over the next few years?

SB: You've got to keep bringing in new players and they do that. They make them play in the minors and they've got good players on their list that aren't here now. Players in college, players in Europe. Players have to come from everywhere and at the same time you have to let them develop. All of a sudden if players retire on you, you have to have replacements.

WIM: Along the same lines, which young player on the Red Wings excites you most in terms of his potential future?

SB: Some of their top players are pretty young. They're not old and that's what people get fooled with. Obviously, their goaltender has played really well for them, Jimmy Howard is involved in the balloting for top rookie.

WIM: How do you see the rest of the playoffs playing out for Detroit?

SB: Well you know you go game by game. The first round is not easy; you look through the league and you see all those 5, 6, 7 game series that are going to be coming up. There have been a couple of 6's already, with San Jose winning and Pittsburgh beating Ottawa but they went to six games. There's a couple that could even go to seven and I think that shows the parity in the league. Let's face it, as you eliminate teams, the next team gets tougher.

WIM: Can you talk a little bit about the game being replayed?

SB: These teams played in '99. Detroit Catholic Central and Trenton, a big high school rivalry. The game was called, a 4-4 tie with 10 minutes to go due to an injury to a player on one of the team. Gatorade is running a re-play situation, if you want to know about it, tells you all about it. These players on both teams have been training now for six weeks. They're going to rehash the game played in '99 so they're getting pretty excited about it. They're under programs run by Gatorade's Sports Science Institute. Ken Holland's son, Brad Holland, played in the game and he will be playing for Catholic Central.


A huge thanks to Scotty Bowman for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk with me about the Red Wings and his coaching experiences in the past as well as the new opportunity in the Replay game. Truly a dream come true to interview a legend such as him.