WINNIPEG – Of all the things that were said at Rick Bowness’ retirement news conference on Monday, the Moncton native hit a home run with this.

“I couldn’t have picked a better place to come back to and finish my career.”

Bowness retired from his playing days in 1984 to begin his career as a full-time coach as an assistant with the Winnipeg Jets at the age of 28 and retired as the Jets bench boss at age 69.

In total, Bowness served as a coach for eight different franchises and was behind the bench for 17 playoff appearances, including trips to the final as an associate coach with the Vancouver Canucks in 2011, as an assistant with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015, and as Dallas Stars head coach in 2020. He is one of only three head coaches (along with Scotty Bowman and Pat Quinn) to serve behind the bench in five different decades. His 2,726 games as an NHL coach are the most by anyone in league history.

“We've got great players. I've been fortunate to have a great coaching staff, and all the accolades with the All-Star game and the nomination, man, it's the players and it's the coaches that got me there. And like I said a couple times, how many coaches can take the month of November off and still be where we are. [[laughs]],” said Bowness.

“The coaches and the players deserve all the credit for that. It's been my pleasure to come back. It's been a real honour for me to coach the Winnipeg Jets again.”

The announcement comes less than a week after the Jets saw their season end in five games at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Bowness said he knew that he was done when he was walking off the ice at Canada Life Centre last Tuesday.

“I didn’t like — me — I didn't like the way our team played, which is on me. So, I was unhappy with myself, unhappy that we had lost, and that bothered me. But as I was standing there and I was looking around, it dawned on me,” said Bowness.

“Coaches have always told me, — and I'm talking to the older coaches, older than me — and they've always said, ‘you'll know when it's time.’ And when I was looking around, and just, I wasn't happy with the job I had done, and it just hit me then, ‘it's time.’”

Bowness told his coaching staff his plans immediately after Game 5.

“Yeah, obviously it was right after the game, and he just got back from talking to the media and kind of caught us all off-guard a little bit. Him and I have talked a lot over the course of the season, and I knew the health thing was a big part of his decision. But at the end of the day, it was still hard to hear,” said associate coach Scott Arniel.

“And I might have been the one to say, 'Sleep on it a little bit, let's talk maybe a little bit later on down the road here.' We talked on I think it was Thursday again, and then he was still adamant that he'd had enough. And he's going out on his terms and obviously a fantastic career.”

Bowness didn’t get to talk to every player on the Jets roster but did speak with the leadership group, Adam Lowry, Mark Scheifele, Josh Morrissey and Connor Hellebuyck. He also saw Vladislav Namestnikov and told him the news. Lowry, Namestnikov and new father Mason Appleton attended the news conference this afternoon. Lowry talked about how Bowness has left the organization in a good place.

“He did such a good job of making everyone like a big part of the team whether they played five minutes, whether they're in and out of the lineup or whether they're on the first line, first power play. I think he talks about trying to uplift his assistant coaches, but he empowers everyone in our room. He talked about wanting to have an impact on our lives and he's a tremendous role model,” said Lowry.

“Looking at when he had to step away to take care of Judy and the emotion, you can see the love he has for her. The amount of things he was willing to sacrifice to come to Winnipeg, to come to a spot where the rumblings were that we weren't in that great of a spot, right? So. A tremendous human being. It's a group that I don't think we're as far off as the results may say. I think Rick played a huge part in it."

Cheveldayoff also discussed the impact that Bowness had on him.

“I think I have a greater appreciation for the National Hockey League and what it means to be in the National Hockey League each and every day from being around Rick and how he carried himself and what he talked about and the presence that he brings,” said Cheveldayoff.

“To be able to watch him interact with the players, to see how he communicated with the players, to see how he would deliver hard news to players that wasn't something that wasn't going to be popular and just his compassion and his directness, one thing that Bones always was and is he's been authentic.”

The Jets were coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs and in came Bowness before the 2022-23 campaign. In two years, he helped turn the team around defensively as shown by their franchise record of going 35 consecutive games allowing three goals or fewer (Nov. 4/23-Jan. 20/24). During that stretch, they also set a club record with a 14-game run without allowing more than two goals (Dec. 20/23- Jan. 20/24). Winnipeg didn’t end up with a Stanley Cup championship, but the 69-year-old has changed the culture and has the team on the right path.

"Then you see the team game that I talk an awful lot about when it's on how good it looked, and then the players felt good about that team game and this is how we're going to win, and we came up short of all of our objectives and the players are just as disappointed as all of us are. And they are. They're the ones that have to go out there every night and work and compete, take hits, block shots,” said Bowness.

“They're the ones paying the price, so they're disappointed, as well. But there's a growth in that. You take a positive out of that that 'OK, we're better than this.' Now last year at the end of the year, 'Oh my God, we've got to straighten out some more things.' And they did by the time training camp came along. This summer, they'll grow again. They will, and they'll be a better team for it next year."