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A sit-down with Scotty

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

The winningest coach in NHL history, Scotty Bowman left a lasting legacy in Montreal that extends beyond the five Stanley Cup banners he helped raise to the rafters during his eight-year career behind the Canadiens bench. His 419 wins with the Habs rank him third all-time in franchise history, and his nine career Cups as an NHL head coach with the Canadiens (1973,1976,1977,1978,1979), Penguins (1992) and Red Wings (1997,1998,2002) stand as a league record unlikely to ever be matched. Now a senior advisor of hockey operations where his son, Stan, is currently the general manager, Bowman hasn’t lost his Midas touch when it comes to building successful teams. We caught up with the legendary bench boss ahead of his appearance at the 2016 APEX Conference in Montreal, where he will discuss teamwork, to get a sneak preview of what he has in store for the crowd.

You’ve been working for the Blackhawks for the past few years and you spend the majority of your winters in the Tampa area, but how often do you make it back to Montreal?

SCOTTY BOWMAN: Not too often during the hockey season. I still know a lot of people there, people I keep in touch with. Finding a direct flight from Tampa to Montreal and travelling commercial is not that easy from where I am. I have to drive to Orlando to catch one. I love coming back to Montreal and going back to the Bell Centre. It’s a nice building, but it’s so different from the Forum.

We assume you don’t miss Montreal winters…

SB: I don’t mind a good snowstorm, but I haven’t been in one in a while. (laughs)

Since it’s been a while since you’ve been in town – what’s the first thing you plan on doing when you arrive? Is there a particular restaurant or old stomping grounds you’ll definitely visit?

SB: I’ll try to go to Moishes Steakhouse when I’m there next week since I haven’t had a chance to go back in a while. The last few times I was in Montreal, I went to a good Greek restaurant on Parc Avenue.

You’ll be here next week for APEX here at the Bell Centre talking about teamwork in the business world. How much do sports reflect life in the corporate world?

SB: The sports world is very much reflected in the corporate world. There are an awful lot of similarities between them by the way businesses and corporations are run similarly to sports teams. There are different ways to get innovative and we see it every single day.

What’s the biggest key to building cohesion on a team?

SB: It all starts with management. If I look at the Canadiens when I was there, Sam Pollock had been in the organization since 1947 before taking over as general manager in 1964. When I got to Montreal in the 70’s, he’d been around for almost 30 years. Nobody will ever come close to what he did, from building the farm system to finding the right players for the big club. He learned from his predecessor Frank Selke. He was a tireless worker; he was very sharp in hiring people. The Canadiens treated their people very well and they had a lot of good people working in the organization, guys like Ron Caron, Claude Ruel, Al MacNeil. People could have gone to other teams – some of them left later – but the team stuck together. Sam was the architect of the team and it was pretty easy and special to coach the team he gave me.

Guy Lapointe, Scotty Bowman, and Serge Savard.

What does a coach need to be successful when it has to manage so many great players, who all have different personalities and egos?

SB: You have to be well-surrounded. I was very fortunate because I had a terrific assistant coach, Claude Ruel, who was an amazing teacher. He was very instrumental in the development of guys like Guy Lapointe, Serge Savard, Rod Langway, etc. Also, our young team grew up together and the young guys learned how to win together.

There’s a lot of talk about the pressure that comes with playing and coaching in Montreal. Did you feel that pressure? What kind of personality does it take to succeed here?

SB: I used to think that the pressure kind of helped the team because the expectations were high. It wasn’t very comfortable when you didn’t win every year – we won five Cups in eight years when I was there – but you couldn’t wait to get started again the next year. The fan base is so involved. You feel the pressure. I enjoyed my time in Montreal. My family was quite young, and three of my kids were born there. And when I was there, I bought a small farm near Granby, in Roxton Pond, and we used to stay there from mid-April or May until training camp. I loved to stay there in summer and I was refreshed whenever the next season started.

Hear more from Scotty on teamwork and building championship teams at the 2016 APEX conference on February 24. Details HERE.

Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com.

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