Retirement simply doesn't appeal to Scotty Bowman.
Stopping just short of labeling himself a lifer, the most successful coach in NHL history said he'll return to the Detroit Red Wings next season.
"I think it would have been difficult not to come back," the 65-year-old Bowman said during a conference call Friday with general manager Ken Holland. "I looked at the alternatives and they didn't look very good."
Bowman, who got his first coaching job with a Montreal junior team in 1955, wouldn't discuss terms of his contract, but it is believed to be for one year with options that will allow him to continue for as long as he wants.
The Red Wings made it clear long ago that he will always have a place in the organization.
"We met a couple of days ago and discussed the opportunity to come back," Bowman said. "I had pretty much decided by the end of the season to make the decision pretty quickly."
"We didn't get the job done this year ... and we have the right mix and with a few minor changes we should be able to contend again next year."
The decision came 10 days after the Red Wings were ousted from the playoffs in their bid for a third straight Stanley Cup.
"It would have been a huge loss if Scotty had decided not to coach," Holland said.
Bowman, who has won eight Stanley Cups, had angioplasty last July and knee replacement surgery in August. He missed all of training camp and the first five games this past season.
"I missed it when I was out," he said. "Not being with the team is tough."
Bowman, whose brother died during heart surgery last June, had said he would not return unless cleared by his doctor.
He appeared to be leaning toward remaining behind the bench shortly after Detroit was eliminated in six games by Colorado in the second round of the playoffs. He said he was intrigued by the prospect of coaching in the year 2000.
"Coaching in another decade is something that's there," Bowman said. "It won't go away. But I'm actually more excited about coaching in 2000. If you get there, it means you had to play pretty well before Christmas."
Bowman has a 1,100-516-284 regular-season record and a 204-116 playoff record, the most victories of any NHL coach. His eight Stanley Cup titles match the number won by Toe Blake with Montreal.
Bowman came to Detroit in 1993 and quickly turned the Red Wings into an NHL power. The team won the Cup in 1997 and 1998, lost in the Cup finals to New Jersey in 1995 and played in the Western Conference finals in 1996.
Since having his arteries unblocked in July, Bowman has lowered his blood pressure and cholesterol through diet.
He remains devoted to daily workouts meant to improve mobility of his titanium knee. When his natural knee became so arthritic he hardly could walk to his car and needed a cane, Bowman decided to have the peration. Since then, he has regained 80 percent mobility.
He said he no longer has pain and did not doubt his decision to return for this past season.
So, is he a lifer?
"Bob Johnson used to put it pretty well when we were at Pittsburgh," Bowman said. "He related it to golf. I know I'm on the back nine. I don't know what hole I'm on, but I'm out there somewhere."
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