he National Hockey League's winningest coach is in Tucson, and watching the Arizona club hockey team take the ice is first on his list of things to do.
Scotty Bowman, the coach who led six teams to Stanley Cup championships, arrived in Tucson yesterday afternoon to honor Icecat coach Leo Golembiewski for his 300th victory with the Icecats.
Golembiewski said he was honored that the legendary coach juggled his schedule so he could be at tonight's game between the Icecats and cross-state rival Arizona State. Bowman is currently the general manager and coach of the Detroit Red Wings. He had to cancel other engagements to see the Icecats.
The 25-year relationship between the two coaches started when Golembiewski came to the St. Louis Blues' training camp during Bowman's second year as coach of the Blues.
When Bowman was a player for the Montreal Canadiens, he talked to Golembiewski about his dream of starting a hockey program in Tucson.
"I told him that he should go and try to start it," Bowman recalled. "If you have a dream about something and then you don't do it, then you end up thinking about it for the rest of your life."
olembiewski said Bowman's visit to honor his 300th victory is somewhat ironic, because Golembiewski spoke with Bowman about the move to Tucson on the night that Bowman got his 300th NHL win in 1979.
"I think that it is kind of weird for me to have my mentor come here and speak about me when it was him who gave me all the motivation to make this move in the first place," Golembiewski said.
Golembiewski said Bowman's arrival shows his decision to move to Tucson was a successful one.
"I don't believe that you can accomplish what this program has accomplished without a strong base and background and Scotty Bowman is a part of my background in hockey," Golembiewski said.
But Bowman cannot go anywhere these days without being asked questions about the labor dispute in hockey. As predicted, several of the questions directed toward him yesterday focused on just that issue.
"The strike will take as long as it takes to get a solid agreement between the two sides," Bowman said. "The players don't want to give up any of their salaries and the owners want to get a more competetive league across the board.
"Honestly, the problem should have been taken care of a couple years ago, but there are so many trigger points to this decision that it is hard to meet at a common point."
He didn't hesitate in answering who suffers the most from the strike.
"The fans really lose out because they can't watch the best league in the world," he said. "But the people who lose most significantly are the vendors and the people who have businesses that really depend on the traffic that major league hockey brings in."
he strike isn't all bad, though Ä the minor league ranks have gained a lot of support from the strike. Usually these teams couldn't sell a ticket on Saturday and Sunday, but now they've enjoyed sellouts. For example, the International Hockey League just had a phemonenal season, and leagues like the East Coast Hockey League are flourishing.
"The fans will move elsewhere and that is where the league on the whole really gets hurt," Bowman said. "We were coming off the highest ratings for a Stanley Cup Championship series and people were anticipating another great season.
"Hockey will survive however, because there are coaches like Leo Golembiewski who are dedicated to the game. Leo has given his whole life to hockey and I'm happy to be here to honor him."
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