For a hockey lifer, Tuesday was no fun for Rick Bowness.
The 66-year-old head coach of the Dallas Stars had a positive test for COVID-19 on Sunday and had to go into the NHL's protocol. That meant he had to stay in Carolina while his team played at Chicago against the Blackhawks. He watched on television.
"That was torturous to watch in a hotel room 1,000 miles away, that was no fun," he said.
[RELATED: Trusting video coach Kelly Forbes never a challenge for Rick Bowness and the Stars]
Bowness was back with the team Wednesday in Chicago getting ready for a Thursday meeting with the Blackhawks after flying in on a private plane (to follow NHL protocol). He said that while the test was a false positive, he also understands the overabundance of caution displayed by the league.
"I get it," he said. "The safety of our people is first and foremost on everyone's mind. NHL protocol is very strict for a reason. You see what is going on in Vancouver and some of these other places, so I get it. A false positive is very frustrating, but it happens."
He is fully vaccinated and said that gave him peace of mind.
"It gave me a certain level of comfort," Bowness said. "When I came off the bench after the second period in Carolina and they told me I tested positive, I said, `What?' I figured they had the wrong guy. No symptoms whatsoever. Even in Dallas, my wife Judy and I don't go anywhere without masks. We avoid all crowds, a lot of it to do with our age, so I was shocked that I would be the guy who would test positive. But being fully vaccinated does give you a comfort zone."
Video: Bowness rejoins Stars after 'tough couple of days'
Bowness was able to have a video meeting with the team and the coaching staff Tuesday, so he did have a hand in putting together the game plan. He also said he didn't want to interrupt the coaches during intermissions.
"I left the coaches alone," he said. "If you're not on the bench, it's an easy game from the TV. That's one thing I realized last night - `Man, this is an easy game to play when you're watching.' It's not so easy when you're on the ice or behind the bench."
As for the team's performance, he said he saw what everyone else saw with Dallas getting behind 3-0 and getting beat on turnovers and counter-attacks.
"We didn't execute very well, for the most part," Bowness said of the 4-2 loss. "I thought we beat ourselves. … So you do those things and you lose some structure, and then OK, the energy is not where it needs to be. And when the energy is not where it needs to be, the mind doesn't work. Some guys try to do way too much, and other guys are not doing near enough, and it ended up looking like that."
Now, the Stars are hoping to learn from the mistakes. Nashville is 21-18-1, Chicago is 18-7-5, and Dallas is 13-14-10. The Stars have games in hand, but they need to start winning them.
"Listen we know where we are," Bowness said. "We've put ourselves here and we can't keep saying, 'We're close, we're close.' We're going to run out of games here unless we get a little bit of a streak going. Nashville is three games above .500, we're one game below .500. Right now, we're behind and we have to win some games to close that gap. You have to help yourself, and we're in position to help ourselves."
That will start Thursday with Bowness back behind the bench.
Stars at Blackhawks
Thursday, 7 p.m. CT
United Center, Chicago
TV: Bally Sports Southwest Plus
Radio: The Ticket 96.7-FM, 1310-AM
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.
Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.