PRAGUE – It wasn’t the job he expected to have when he arrived on this side of the Atlantic, but Mike Babcock has made a seamless transition into the role as head coach of Team Canada.
Babcock was brought on as an assistant coach for the World Hockey Championship but when Joel Quenneville became ill and had to step down as head coach, Babcock took over behind the bench and he’s guided Canada into the medal round.
This time last year, Babcock was busy preparing the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for a run at the Stanley Cup. The Ducks took New Jersey to 7 games in the Final but the Devils emerged as the Stanley Cup champions.
Now a year later, Babcock is doing everything he can to have Canada successfully defend the world title it won last year in Helsinki.
He’s asked whether there’s a difference between winning for an NHL club and winning for your country.
" When it is time to win, I do not know if there is a whole bunch," says Babcock. "I am a proud guy and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim have given me the opportunity to live a dream. (Anaheim GM) Bryan Murray took a chance and gave me a chance and I am so proud to have that. But this (Canada) is where I grew up"
Babcock is entirely dedicated to helping his team win. He’s not shy about seeing out feedback from Team Canada GM Jim Nill and he’s likes to hear what players think. He’s always open to suggestions.
" The thing I am learning the most is these players have a lot to offer. And if you talk to them, they have something to say and you can learn from them," he says. "This has been a good experience for me."
" You always want to get better. As a coach when you send your players in the off-season you talk about ways to get better and it is no different for a coach. As a coach, the more opportunities you have to coach good players the more you learn. These guys talk and I get feedback. You are allowed to get better and it takes you out of your comfort zone."
Babcock is a proud and highly competitive man who’s not afraid to say he has faults. But he thinks people in general should pause from time to time to readjust their priorities.
" You have to look at yourself. You have to get outside your body and evaluate who you are. If somebody
tells you you are not a good listener, you had better become a good listener. You have to get better all the
time to move ahead in the NHL. The National league exposes you. The professional player exposes the coach
like no other league so you have to do a good job."
His resume includes a gold medal with Canada’s 1997 National Junior team at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
" Winning is special," he says. "And when you win together, you walk together forever. When you do not win, you do not walk forever."
You know that when Canada plays Finland in the quarterfinals, Babcock will be ready.
" I will do the best I can to prepare the team and then I will be the calmest under control guy I can be. I am going to be a positive, demanding guy that catches them doing good things, and we’re going to let it happen.
" When you have the Canada sweater on and you lose a game, holy mackerel. That is a different feeling you
have not had in a while and you do not like that feeling. You play to play again now. That is she is all