Bowman longevity marked by unparalleled excellence

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Tonight, Detroit Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman is scheduled to walk onto the ice at the Star Center in Dallas and make history -- again -- by coaching in his record 1,607th game.

"It's just another game," Bowman said before tying Al Arbour's record Wednesday.

But it's more than that. It's a special night when you consider what he has done in the 1,606 games that have come before tonight.

In a league in which coaches come and go faster than you can say "won-lost record," Bowman has been a constant, having competed against 148 different coaches and beaten the odds.

Bowman holds NHL regular-season records for wins at 938 and winning percentage (.659 over his 24-year career). He has more postseason victories (152) than anyone else.

His current team is among the league leaders with a 25-7-2 mark, best in the Western Conference.

"I never thought I'd do this," Bowman said. "I thought I was finished about five years ago. When I left coaching in Buffalo [1987], I thought it was pretty well over."

Since then, there has been a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992 and Detroit's appearance in the finals last season.

The 62-year-old native of Montreal is the only coach in NHL history to lead four different teams (St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh, Detroit) to the Stanley Cup finals. His six Cup victories are second only to Toe Blake's eight with Montreal.

Arbour, the man he is to replace in the record book tonight, said he isn't sure anyone else will be able to stay in the game long enough to reach such heights. But he said he isn't disappointed to see his record bettered.

"I'm happy to see Scotty break it," said Arbour, the New York Islanders' vice president of hockey operations. "He gave me my first break, my first job in St. Louis. If anyone is going to break it, I'm glad it's Scotty."

Bowman is to be honored in Detroit on Jan. 12, when the Los Angeles Kings come to town. Kings coach Larry Robinson, who played on all five Stanley Cup winners Bowman coached in Montreal, is to present his old coach with a photo collage of his career.

'It's just a movie'

Jean-Claude Van Damme's new movie, "Sudden Death," is stirring a little controversy for the NHL.

The action movie, set during a supposed Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals between the Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks, is not another "Mighty Ducks" film that leaves everyone warm and cheery.

There have been questions about the NHL's image being associated with the film that includes everything from guests in the owner's box being machine-gunned to the Zamboni driver taking a bullet in the head.

"It's 'Die Hard' in an arena," said Howard Baldwin, owner of the real Penguins and co-producer of the movie. "It's great exposure for our team. I didn't need league approval to make the movie, but I needed permission for the team logos. It's got a different feel than 'The Mighty Ducks.' "

True. Besides, as the Buffalo Sabres' Pat Lafontaine said, "It's just a movie. Hopefully, people will take it for what it is and realize the movie isn't about the game."

Around the rinks

* Florida Panthers rookie coach Doug MacLean will guide the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game next month because his team was leading the conference Dec. 27, the last day of All-Star ballotting. MacLean said it's a nice honor, but added, "It's a little bit embarrassing. You're talking about a guy who has only coached 30-something games in the NHL." Bowman will coach the Western All-Stars.

* The Calgary Flames have won twice at home this season. Contrast that with the New York Rangers, who are unbeaten in their past 17 home games (14-0-3). New York is on a three-game western road swing, which takes the team to Calgary, by the way, for a New Year's Eve encounter. The Rangers return home Wednesday and will try to stretch their home streak against Montreal.

* The Washington Capitals' Peter Bondra, who missed the first six games of the season in a contract holdout, has moved into the NHL's top 10 among goal-scorers. He scored No. 20 last night.

Bowman by the numbers

Detroit's Scotty Bowman is scheduled to break Al Arbour's record of 1,606 regular-season games behind the bench tonight.

Games coached: 1,606.

Record: 938-428-240.

Winning percentage: .659.

* Only nine of 148 men who have coached against him have won as many as 10 games off him. The most successful: Al Arbour (19-35-8), whose 19 wins represent the most by anyone.

* Over the years, 206 players have scored a total of 6,317 goals for him. They are led by Guy Lafleur's 355. Jacques Lemaire is second with 255.

* Twenty-four of Bowman's players have become NHL head coaches.

Coaching leaders

Coach ... ... ... ... Games

Al Arbour ... ... ... 1,606

St. Louis (107), N.Y. Isl. (1,499)

Scotty Bowman .. .. .. 1,606

St. Louis (238), Montreal (634), Buffalo (404), Pittsburgh (164), Detroit (166)

Dick Irvin ... ... ... 1,437

Chicago (114), Toronto (427), Montreal (896)

Bill Reay ... ... .. .. 1,102

Toronto (90), Chicago (1,012)

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