Bowman on top of worlds

GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

It is well documented that Scotty Bowman is, without doubt, the most successful coach in the history of the National Hockey League.

So, it's not surprising that he'll be in Vienna next week in a somewhat official capacity at the world hockey championship.

Mind you, it won't be behind the bench of Team Canada, or any other team for that matter. In fact, he won't be involved with any of the games.

"The International Ice Hockey Federation invited me to lecture at an international coaches' symposium on May 5," Bowman told me the other day from his home in Buffalo. "It's quite an honour and I'm looking forward to it. I'll leave for Vienna on Tuesday."

Despite the fact that his invitation is to the short seminar, Scotty doesn't plan to just fly in and out of the Austrian capital. He has made plans to stay late, travel to Innsbruck for Canada's preliminary games and quietly cheer for Canada. That is if Scotty can cheer quietly.

"In my view, even without some of the stars who declined to participate for personal reasons, Team Canada has a strong, young team," the Hockey Hall of Famer said. "We have strong and fast skating defencemen and the best goaltending tandem in the tournament with Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo. I'm sure they'll not only make the final round, but also have a shot at the gold.

"The Czechs will ice a good team, as will the Russians, Slovaks and Finns, all with their NHL players. The Swedes will miss too many of their stars."

The trip to the Austrian capital is not Bowman's first. In fact, he almost got into serious trouble a few years ago, although he laughs about it today.

LAST TIME

"The last time I was in Vienna was at the 1967 world championship," Bowman said. "It was the year when we (St. Louis Blues) signed goalie Seth Martin off Father Dave Bauer's national team. Prior to the tournament, the Canadian team played a warmup game in Prague against the then Czechoslovakia.

"I had followed that team in a game in Switzerland and liked their defenceman, Jozef Horesovsky. He reminded me of Bobby Orr. I also knew Ludek Bukac, who coached the Czechoslovaks, and he asked me if I wanted to meet Horesovsky. When I told him I would, he invited me into their dressing room and pointed toward Horesovsky.

"Then all hell broke loose. Czech officials -- Miroslav Subrt and Vladimir Kostka -- started yelling in Czech and I moved out of there faster than I ever moved before. I expected the secret police to come and grab me. I rushed to Father Bauer and asked him what to do. He calmly pointed to the team bench and told me to sit there for the entire game. I was never happier than when the plane left the Prague airport."

Bowman, who wore a St. Louis Blues jacket, thought that Bukac, whom he had known since the latter coached for a short time in the American Hockey League, had set him up. Despite this unpleasant experience, Bowman signed 34-year-old Czech forward Jaroslav Jirik and assigned him to play one game for Blues' farm team in Kansas City. The next day the Blues played in New York and Bowman wanted to see how Jirik would fare in an NHL game.

However, when he asked the trainer where Jirik was, Scotty was told that Jirik had left for home. Later the super coach found out that Jirik had received word from his fiancee to return to Prague immediately or the engagement would be terminated. Jirik left the Blues without receiving even a nickel.

Even though the signing of the first Czech player to an NHL contract was unsuccessful, it still opened the floodgates for the likes of Vaclav Nedomansky, Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra, Marian Hossa and many others.

After talking to Bowman, I wondered what kind of trouble Scotty would manage to get himself into on this year's trip.


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