Mike Babcock brings intensity, attention to detail to U of S Huskies
It might not be the bright lights of the NHL, but Mike Babcock says that doesn’t matter.
“Players are trying hard, trying to get better, working hard. And we’ve got an unbelievable facility here … so that makes it a lot of fun and I’m enjoying it,” Babcock said prior to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies hockey practice Thursday.
Babcock, a Stanley Cup and Olympic gold medal-winning coach, was fired as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 20, 2019 after a rocky start to the season.
He is now leading the Huskies men’s hockey team. The season is shorter, the arena smaller, and Babcock says academic and on ice performance go hand in hand.
"Is there lots of things in their life different? For sure. These guys are full time students. And that’s what they are here for. Number one, they are a student.
“In saying that, when they are at the rink, their number one focus is being a good player. And so you try to help them do that, and that’s my job to help them with that.”
Intensity and attention to detail are a few words players use to describe playing for Babcock.
“When I came to the U of S, I didn’t expect to be coached by a guy with this pedigree. So to have him on our side, it’s great,” said forward Jared Dmytriw.
“He’s a great guy. You know, when we’re on the ice it is intense, we’re all business. But when were away from the rink and stuff we’re just guys and we like to hang out and relax and kind of decompress,” Dmytriw said.
“It’s hard to remember that he is who he is, because you come to the rink and you just want to work and you want to learn,” said defenceman Evan Fiala.
So far, Babcock says he enjoys spending time with family, with his son helping him on the bench.
There are challenges such as fundraising for the program. However, most importantly, he hopes to play a positive role as these athletes build a foundation for their future.
With only one more weekend of preseason left, what kind of team does Babcock say the Huskies have?
“Our back end is very, very steady, good size, moves the puck well. We seem to have good depth up front. And we’re still trying to figure it out in net right now and we’ll do that over this last weekend.”
The Huskies open the season Oct. 22 against the University of Regina Cougars.