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Ask The Oracle: From Cup rings to baseball cards, Bowman's quite the collector

by Bob Verdi / Chicago Blackhawks
Sr. Advisor Scotty Bowman says motivation isn't a concern for Toews, Sharp, Kane and the Blackhawks.

Scotty Bowman, senior advisor for hockey operations, brought his Hall of Fame resume to the Blackhawks in 2008. Now the man with 12 Stanley Cup rings will share his knowledge with this forum, “Ask the Oracle.” Got a question for Ask The Oracle? Submit it here.

With such a long hockey season, how does a coach like Joel Quenneville motivate players to play hard every night? --Mark Lebow, Milwaukee, Wis.

If it’s a problem at all with any team, it’s more of a problem in the middle of the season than it is now as you draw closer to the playoffs. The Western Conference now is so tight and every point is so important, I don’t think motivation is an issue with teams fighting for a playoff spot, which almost every team is. I’m guessing that if you asked the Blackhawks players, all of them would have a good handle on where they are in the standings, which teams are ahead of them and which teams are behind.

When I was coaching, it was a lot different than it is now, of course. Players today have much more independence, they have free agency, and it’s not like a coach like Joel can hold over players the threat of sending them to the minor leagues. But one thing coaches now still have is the ability to regulate ice time. That hasn’t changed. If a player isn’t playing hard or up to his potential, you can still regulate how much he plays. As I watch the Blackhawks, though, I don’t believe motivation is necessary. These guys know what it takes.

I once heard an interview with you, and you mentioned that one of your interests is collecting old baseball cards. Could you expand on that if it’s true? --Bob King, Fairfield Glade, Tenn.

I have not only baseball cards, but cards from a lot of sports, although I haven’t collected much since the 1990s. In all, there might be between 300,000 or 400,000 cards in boxes, all in the basement of our house. A lot of them are pretty valuable, I guess. I have a Michael Jordan rookie card, another card of Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird together. There’s a Bobby Orr rookie card somewhere down there too. And I have maybe 40 of my own rookie cards when I first started coaching the St. Louis Blues. There was a time when one of the companies made coaching cards. I don’t have a Mickey Mantle rookie card, but I do have one from his second year with the Yankees.

When my son Stan and his brother Bob were young, they were interested in collecting cards as sort of a hobby, and so was I. But when they grew up, they naturally weren’t as involved. In fact, I don’t think people collect cards the way they used to. It’s more memorabilia now. People collect all sorts of stuff from teams, and the cards aren’t as popular as they once were. I have no idea what all our cards are worth. A long time ago, we also used to have model trains. Trains would travel from room-to-room in our house. Nobody is interested in trains anymore, either, I don’t think. Our trains are in boxes too, along with the cards.

What have you done with all your Stanley Cup rings? --Stan Takaki, Chicago

I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of 12 Stanley Cup teams. The first 11 are in a safety deposit box. The last one, from the Blackhawks in June, I keep around and wear on occasion if I’m going to a dinner or something like that where people will ask about it and want to see it. It’s a good talking piece. Otherwise, I don’t wear it around the house or anything like that. Obviously, if you’ve seen the Blackhawks’ ring, you know it’s off the charts. It’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some World Series and Super Bowl rings. The Blackhawks went all out on their Stanley Cup rings.

Can you describe your recent trip to the White House with the Blackhawks? --Martin Hardy, San Francisco

I’ve been to the White House five different times, including the last one with the Blackhawks, and all visits are different. I was very impressed with our recent trip. There is always a great sense of anticipation when you go to the White House, and after you’ve been there, people want to know all about it.

The President, Barack Obama, was very engaging. We spent about 45 minutes getting a tour of the White House. Then he came around and introduced himself to everyone in our group, and spent 10 or 15 minutes talking with us before we went outside for the official ceremony. After that, his wife, Michelle, spent a lot of time around our players and the youngsters there near the South Lawn for the street hockey event. The President made everybody feel at ease. I don’t know that he’s necessarily a hockey fan. It’s my understanding that he hasn’t been to a game yet in Washington. Of course, he’s very busy. But he’s a Chicago guy, and that was very evident in the way he related to the Blackhawks.

Given the changes in the economic structure of the NHL, is it possible for a team to form a dynasty anymore? --Bruce Benzing, Murray, Ky.

No, I don’t think so. Under the present collective bargaining agreement with a hard salary cap, it’s very difficult to keep your players, even if you have drafted and developed them. Most teams, like the Blackhawks, have been able to keep their core guys under long-term contracts, but it’s impossible to keep your roster intact. The cap should go up next year, so there will be a little more room for all teams. The Blackhawks will have to do some maneuvering again, but it will be nothing like last season. Nothing close. As I’ve said before a number of times, I’ve been in hockey for a long time, and I’ve never seen anything like what the Blackhawks had to do last summer because of the constraints of the hard cap. But to answer your original question, will we see a team like the New York Islanders, who won four straight Cups in the 1980s? Not under the present system, no.

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