It’s tough to argue there’s ever been a greater hockey coach than the legend that is Scotty Bowman.
His playing career ended when a slash from Jean-Guy Talbot resulted in a fractured skull. He started coaching in the QJHL as an assistant at age 23, and the following season, his team won the Memorial Cup.
Fourteen years later, Bowman had earned himself a job on an NHL bench, and at age 34, he got his first head coaching gig.
Bowman would win the Stanley Cup four consecutive times in the ’70s as a coach for the Montreal Canadiens. He’s also renowned for his nine years with the Detroit Red Wings, where he retired as a winner in 2002.
Bowman’s legacy will live on forever, holding the record for the most wins in league history. With his 14 Stanley Cup victories, he’s second for the most by a player, coach, or executive, only behind Jean Béliveau’s 17.
Scotty Bowman was a great team builder and an even better leader. He knew hockey, of course, but he always ensured that the players knew what mattered, and he knew exactly how to hold the group together.
He also had some hilarious tricks to keep the players from misbehaving, especially while on the road. Road trips in the NHL during those days could be wilder than they are today, with occasional partying and drinking.
But Bowman had a trick up his sleeve to keep track of his players. On road trips, Bowman would simply leave a stick with the hotel front desk at curfew time, asking the clerk to get players to sign it.
The following morning, just by watching the stick’s autographs, he could tell who stayed out late.
However, Brendan Shanahan, former Detroit Red Wings cult hero, knew about Bowman’s trick—and would blame Darren McCarty instead.
“If anybody asks me for an autograph late at night, I always sign Darren McCarty,” Shanahan said in a CBC interview in 2000.