Ken Dryden and Scotty Bowman Bring History to Life

The Two Hall of Famers Discuss the Habs and Dryden’s New Book on Bowman

Former Vezina trophy winner Ken Dryden (left) teams up with winningest NHL head coach Scotty Bowman to deliver a biography on Scotty: A Hockey Life Like No Other. Photo Dustin-Kagan Fleming
Hockey Hall of Famers, Ken Dryden and Scotty Bowman, bring forth their new book. Photo Dustin-Kagan Fleming

The applause, standing ovation, and cheers seemed to belong more to a hockey game at the old Forum than an auditorium at Loyola High School.

But when you’re welcoming a pair of legends, especially Montreal hockey legends, that’s to be expected.

This city has always had an almost religious relationship with the Montreal Canadiens. So bringing out the greatest coach in the team’s history and one of it’s finest players, with a total of 20 Stanley Cups between them, is a big moment.

Scotty Bowman and Ken Dryden sat down with TSN’s Mitch Melnick for a live interview to promote Dryden’s new book on Bowman’s life, “Scotty: a Hockey Life Like No Other.”

Melnick didn’t need to list off the achievements of the two key members of the 1970s Canadiens that many call the greatest team of all time. His preludes of “it’s possible he’s an even better writer than he was a goaltender,” (Dryden) and “please welcome the best,” (Bowman) was enough to set ablaze a crowd ready to meet their childhood idols.

The two hall of famers sat down and Melnick immediately had them delving through history. Bowman coached from 1956-2002 and Dryden played through the 70s before writing several books on hockey and serving as president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, so there was plenty for both to go over.

The evening never dissolved into a listing of achievements though. Instead it was a night of stories and a look into two of the most prominent minds in hockey. At first, the 86-year-old Bowman took the reins. The soft spoken coach went through his early life delivering papers in Verdun as a Boston Bruins fan to his years in the NHL. He shared stories like the Richard Riot and even sneaked in player evaluations now and again.

Bowman is a walking encyclopedia of hockey knowledge. Throughout the evening, he fired off stats from decades ago, discussed players that played no more than a few games in the 60s, and did it all with a level of insight that had the crowd focused and showing their appreciation at every chance.

“This is a story that cannot be lost. Scotty has lived a life unlike anyone else […] it has to be captured somewhere.” Ken Dryden

Dryden came in as the excellent speaker he has a reputation for being. A former Member of Parliament and cabinet minister, he was at ease speaking publicly on everything from old pranks in his playing days, to the difficulties of tracing NHL history over the course of many decades as a writer.

However, he wanted to make sure to get more than just a collection of stories out of the most successful coach in hockey history.

Dryden aimed to get not only the story of who Bowman is and was, but position him as he knows him: a coach and evaluator of hockey.

The two met many times in Florida, where Bowman spends about half the year, and 1500 pages and about four years later, the book was finished.

Dryden’s method to get what he wanted from Bowman was to select the eight greatest teams in all of hockey history in Bowman’s mind and have the coach pit them against each other.

This meant going over the context of who the early 50s Red Wings were, for example. What was the state of hockey at the time? Who were their players? How would Bowman coach them against their opponents, another one of the eight teams?

Ken Dryden shares his thoughts on the book at Loyola High School. Photo Dustin-Kagan Fleming

This not only gave the context and evaluation of the hockey world throughout history, but Bowman and his place in it. The context of his life would come out during the coverage of the teams and Dryden ended up with a blend of the two that he wanted and a new debate on the greatest team ever, answered by Bowman himself.

As Melnick noted: “two books in one.”

While most of the night was filled with discussions about the past, the two also touched on the current state of hockey, specifically concussions. Dryden has been adamant on the topic that any hit to the head in hockey should be made illegal, due to the prevalence of traumatic brain injuries.

Bowman told a story of how his grandson had recently suffered a concussion and the new perspective that brought him. He threw his support behind Dryden and player safety.

“Everything has to start at a certain place. Everyone looks up to the NHL,” said Bowman, noting that stricter regulations in the pro leagues will have an effect on younger players as well.

When the discussion ended, nearly every member of the audience rushed to line up for a chance to meet the two legends and have their books autographed.