Saturday, December 23, 2006

Wings coach Mike Babcock

Sorry about the lack of posting from me, I've been crazy busy. Since I don't have much time right now, I'm going to post a little feature I had written up on the Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock when he first signed with the Red Wings at the end of the lockout:

Holland thinks Babcock is exactly what the organization needs at this important time. “He has tremendous passion for the game. He has tremendous energy,” Holland said. “He's got specific ideas in mind on how he wants to the team to play, how he wants the players to play. He's the boss. He'll give the players the parameters whereby they can do whatever they do, and if they step outside the boundaries Mike will deal with it.”

As a team with a lot of veterans (we’ll see how the CBA effects that number), Babcock refuses to let them take it easy.

"I believe in leadership. I believe in being the best in the world at what I do...When you don't make people accountable, it leads to a superstar mentality where not everyone on the team is important...Maybe the most exciting thing is that I'm coming here to join a family in Detroit that's philosophy is based totally on a passion for winning," Babcock said.
Babcock received a degree in physical education from McGill University in Montreal and later performed graduate work in sports psychology. His education background helps him coach the players’ mental and emotional aspect. Babcock focuses on how the mental and emotional state of a player affects his game.
"Jimmy (Devellano, vice president of the Wings) and Ken (Holland, general manager) got a competitive, fiery guy, who can kick over a garbage can or slam a door," said ESPN analyst Barry Melrose, a former NHL coach with the Los Angeles Kings. "He's a motivator and a passionate guy. He got more out of those guys in Anaheim than other guys could have, and to me that's a sign of a good coach. Do the same with Detroit's lineup and you'll win a Stanley Cup."
Babcock loves to use a grinding style of hockey to physically beat the opponent when their on the defensive. This brand disrupts the opposing team’s offensive flow and creates offensive opportunities for his team. This style fits the Wings’ style of play – grittiness and hard work as seen in the “Grind Line.”

“He's a very intelligent coach who I think has been unfairly portrayed as a defensive-only coach,” said Al Strachan, a columnist for the Toronto Sun and a regular contributor on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada telecasts.
“He's a coach who has that ability to see what's needed to win and he has a subsequent ability to take advantages as they exist.

When he was in college hockey, he was very offensive-minded. And if the rules are changed to reward offense (the NHL is considering changes ahead of the 2005 season), he's smart enough to institute a system that will take advantage of it.”
Strachan also believes that Babcock could put fear in his players where they’ll produce. Lewis couldn’t do that after being with the organization so long especially as assistant coach.
“People were terrified of Scotty," Strachan said. “Players will tell you fear is a good thing -- that being afraid of losing, afraid of a coach, motivates better players to play as well as they can. I don't think anybody was afraid of (Lewis). He was just too nice of a guy. But Babcock can be tough, he can be very sarcastic. He can put guys in their place. He has almost a Hitchcock-like (current Flyers coach Ken) ability to be a friend and a psychotherapist. He's a modern coach and that's a good thing to have in Detroit.”
Babcock will be responsible in this upcoming transition season where he must develop younger players like Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Jiri Hudler, Jiri Fischer and Niklas Kronwall while pushing the veterans. These players will be whom the Wings rely heavily on over the next season.
“There are some great, great players here. Unbelievable passers. I think on the backend that you have some guys who can really get the puck going upfront,” Babcock said. “You have so much skill and obviously the leadership of Stevie Yzerman. You can't say enough about that. We want to play an uptempo game, we want to get after the other team and we want to be entertaining, but we want to win.”
Scotty Bowman has called Babcock a “passionate man.” While living in Cincinatti, Babcock grew close with the neighborhood kids who he’d spend time with whether it was hockey, football, etc. His neighbors’ son, Jeffrey Hayden, was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was coach of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Jeffrey died in September of 2003 where upon Babcock delivered the eulogy at the funeral. Along with Jeffrey’s parents, they created a website,, to try to increase awareness of pediatric brain tumors. “He's been a great friend of our family,” Tim Hayden said. “He gave a wonderful eulogy that people still talk about today.”

Babcock also lost his mother, Gail, to cancer. “Mike and his mom were extremely good friends,” Mike Sr. said. “When she died, I would say that was the biggest loss of his life.” Babcock’s agent’s brother and his friend’s son both died of brain cancer. With so many close ties to brain cancer, Babcock has remained involved in the Jeffrey Thomas Hayden Foundation since its start 10 months ago. “There were some kids in California that were going through some bad times,” Hayden said. “Mike gives the parents his cell phone and says, ‘Tell the kids to call when they're feeling down.’ And Mike ends up calling and asking how they're doing." He doesn’t mind giving his phone number to so many kids because “if I can talk to someone on the phone for five minutes and make their day, I’ll do it.”

During the lockout, he worked with the foundation, which hopes to give parents a place to share experiences and a safe place to disclose medical information with families who can’t travel far for a second opinion. Babcock then met with several cancer organizations and then got the NHL involved. "I'm not surprised," Hayden said. "That's Mike. It's his thing. What he dedicates his free time to, this is it."

The Haydens are excited for Babcock to move closer to Cincinnati and believe that Mike will appreciate Detroit. “He's not afraid to be in Hockeytown,” Tim Hayden said. “I think he's going to like it a lot better than Hollywood. Detroit's a hockey town, and he's a hockey guy. The guy breathes hockey. I hope the people take to him.”

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