DALLAS — The oldest coach in the NHL is now a free agent.
Rick Bowness, 67, stepped down as head coach of the Dallas Stars on Friday, according to a statement released by the team.
“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,” said Bowness.
Bowness joined the Stars in 2018 as an assistant coach on the staff of then new head coach Jim Montgomery.
Midway through the chaotic, COVID-disrupted 2019-2020 season, Montgomery was fired for unprofessional conduct.
Bowness assumed the role of interim head coach and helped guide the Stars to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 2000.
"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," said Stars general manager Jim Nill.
The Stars lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Cup Final from the NHL bubble in Edmonton, Ab.
The interim tag was removed a few weeks later as Bowness signed a two-year contract to be the Stars head coach.
Bowness' two-year contract expired at the conclusion of the 2021-2022 season, which was marked by the Stars' heartbreaking Game 7 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames.
“I’d like to thank all the passionate fans and the dedicated staff for their support and hard work in my time here," Bowness added. "It has been an honor for me, and my family, to represent the Stars and the city of Dallas.”
Bowness has coached more than 2,500 games behind an NHL bench as a head or assistant coach.
“Rick is one of the most respected and beloved individuals to have ever coached in the NHL,” said Nill. “He has dedicated his life to our game, and we are honored to say that the Dallas Stars are part of his legacy."
In addition to Bowness' departure, Stars assistant coaches John Stevens, Derek Laxdal and Todd Nelson will also not return next season.
The search for the Dallas Stars next head coach begins immediately.