Rick Bowness is stepping aside as Dallas Stars head coach after three seasons, the team announced on Friday.
Bowness, 67, had his two-year contract expire after the Stars were eliminated by the Calgary Flames in seven games in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Assistant coaches Derek Laxdal, John Stevens and Todd Nelson will also not return to the Stars next season.
“After careful consideration with my wife Judy, we feel it’s best to step away and allow the organization the opportunity to pursue a different direction at the head coaching position,” Bowness said in a statement. “I’d like to thank all the passionate fans and the dedicated staff for their support and hard work in my time here. It has been an honor for me, and my family, to represent the Stars and the city of Dallas.”
Bowness coached the Stars for parts of three seasons, amassing an 89-62-25 record. As assistant coach at the time, he took over on an interim basis after the team parted ways with coach Jim Montgomery in December 2019. Bowness led Dallas to the Stanley Cup Final during the “bubble” postseason necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was given a two-year contract after that run.
Dallas failed to make the playoffs in 2020-21 but finished in the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference this season, pushing Pacific Division leader Calgary the distance before losing 3-2 in overtime of Game 7.
Bowness was the 24th head coach in team history. His .577 points percentage was the fifth-highest mark in franchise history. General manager Jim Nill called Bowness “one of the most respected and beloved individuals to have ever coached” in the NHL.
Bowness has 2,562 games behind the bench as an assistant or head coach, which is the most for any individual in NHL history. He has a career head-coaching record of 211-351-76 record in 638 games with Winnipeg (1988-89), Boston (1991-92), Ottawa (1992-96), the New York Islanders (1996-98), Phoenix (2003-04) and Dallas (2019-22). Additionally, he served in assistant coaching roles with the Winnipeg Jets, Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks and Lightning. He is also just one of three coaches in NHL history to have held a head-coaching position in five different decades, alongside Hockey Hall of Famers Pat Quinn and Scotty Bowman.
“His dedication and commitment to the game, and the impact that he’s made on countless players, coaches and support staff throughout his five decades in the League is unmatched,” Nill said. “He has dedicated his life to our game, and we are honored to say that the Dallas Stars are part of his legacy. When he was called upon to lead our team a few seasons ago, he stepped into the role seamlessly and helped guide our team through unprecedented global events that affected our players and staff both on and off the ice. On behalf of the entire organization, I want to wish Rick, Judy and the rest of their family nothing but the best moving forward.”
The Stars are now the fifth NHL team seeking a new head coach in the offseason, joining the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Vegas Golden Knights and Jets. It’s expected to be a robust market for coaching candidates, such as recently fired coaches like Barry Trotz and Peter DeBoer among other veteran bench bosses like Claude Julien, Paul Maurice, Alain Vigneault, Rick Tocchet and John Tortorella.
Mike Babcock and Joel Quenneville, two of the all-time winningest coaches, could also be available, although both bring considerable baggage. Babcock had mental abuse accusations levied at him by former players after he was fired in Toronto in 2019. Quenneville resigned from the Florida Panthers in 2021 after a report was released that detailed how the Chicago Blackhawks mishandled allegations that a player was sexually abused by an assistant coach in 2010, when Quenneville was the team’s head coach.