It was a “weird” and “crazy” Tuesday in the world of the Dallas Stars players and coaches. They took the ice for their morning skate having learned of the news that their head coach, Jim Montgomery, had been fired, but also not knowing what the “material act of unprofessionalism” was that caused his dismissal.
Amid the uncertainty, they still had a game to prepare for against the New Jersey Devils, and once the puck dropped with Rick Bowness taking charge behind the bench, they went back to playing good hockey. The result? A 2-0 shutout, with Radek Faksa starting the scoring off early 102 seconds into the game.
If the makeup of the Stars roster had been on the younger side, maybe the shocking news would have had a bigger effect on the game, but a veteran group knows how to handle such potential distractions.
“We have an experienced group in here — a lot of guys that have been around a long time,” said goaltender Ben Bishop, who stopped 26 shots for his 32nd career shutout. “In sports, unfortunately, people lose their jobs, and people get traded. You don’t have much time to react, and you can’t sit there and soak it all in. You have to get back to work, and I thought the guys did a great job.
“We did a pretty good job today of sticking to our game-day routine and having our meetings, coming to the rink, and focusing on the New Jersey Devils. I thought we did a good job of sticking with our game plan and taking it to them.”
It wasn’t just an experienced lineup that helped, it was the voice behind the bench. Bowness has been a head coach or an assistant coach in the NHL for over 2,000 games, the most in league history. He’s experienced and has a track record that follows him. Bishop and Bowness were in Tampa together for two seasons and has had nothing but positive things to say about him.
You can see after the game how much the team wanted to win Tuesday night and begin the process of moving forward.
Bowness’ last NHL head coaching job was in 2003-04 when he led the Phoenix Coyotes for 20 games before he was dismissed. He certainly didn’t envision becoming a head coach again in this fashion, but you’ve got to take advantage of every potential opportunity that comes your way.
“Even at my age, as a coach in this League, you want to take another shot at it,” Bowness said Tuesday morning. “It means a lot to me to have another kick at it, for sure. I mean, there are a lot more years behind me than ahead of me, and I get all that.
“But we’re just going to enjoy every day and make the most of it. I’m fortunate to be given this opportunity, I’m fortunate that ownership and management have faith in me to take this offer, faith in the coaching staff, that we don’t have to make a lot of changes. So, we’re very, very fortunate with that.”