“I always like being on the ice with the guys. When you have a passion and you appreciate it, it’s hard to part with it man… You can always call on experienced coaches, I think.

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Ken Babey was ready to try something new, something different.


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He had retired from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) after serving as athletic director and hockey coach. He had been there for almost three decades, but the door to the hockey arena opened wide to something completely new in 2014.

Hockey Canada asked Babey to coach sledge hockey and he soon took over as head coach of what is now known as Canada’s National Para Hockey Team program.

“The rest,” says Babey, now 67, “was history.”

Hockey Canada knew Babey well, having previously served as head coach of Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team at the 2000 Four Nations Cup and assistant coach of Canada’s National Men’s Team at the 2003 Loto Cup in Slovakia, winning a gold medal at both tournaments.

“The foundation of the (luge) game,” he said, years later, as he prepared Canada’s national team for the 2022 Paralympic Games in Beijing, China, March 5-13, “ is still the same as hockey — it’s a great sport.”

What a ride it has been.

Babey, who was born and raised in Saskatoon, was also selected to coach Hockey Canada’s National Men’s Team selection camps from 1990 to 1998, when Canada had a full-time National Men’s Program based in Father David Bauer Arena in Calgary.

In 1996, Saskatoon native Dave King chose Babey and Wally Kozak to help select Japan’s national junior team.

Babey spent 27 years as head coach of the SAIT men’s hockey team from 1987 to 2014, ending his career as what was, at the time, the winningest coach in Canadian post-secondary hockey history – with 534 regular season and playoff wins. (Dave Adolph went on to set the new record with 536 regular season and playoff wins with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in 27 seasons.)


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Babey led SAIT to nine Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championships (1997, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) and the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association national championship in 2000, while also being sports director at SAIT from 1997. -2014.

Babey says what he loves most about para hockey or sledge hockey is the sheer competition and camaraderie, although he admits ‘it’s been tough here with COVID’ with the main events cancelled.

“But we found ways to stay connected, build relationships and work on culture,” he says. “I just like being around the guys and we have great staff that I work with that makes my job a little easier. I just enjoy the competitive atmosphere and when we compete – especially against the Americans or the Russians – I enjoy that aspect of the game.”


Babey is once again at the helm of Canada’s national team, which won gold at the 2017 World Para Ice Hockey Championships and silver at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. .

Babey thinks the 2022 squad is as good as 2018, just different.

“This team (2018) had a lot more veteran leadership than this team,” he says. “This team has a pretty good mix of some pretty good and experienced players, and then we have a lot of promising young guys who joined us a couple or three years ago when we started the quad (four-year preparation).

Babey says he is focused on “getting that Paralympic gold medal” that eluded him in 2018.


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“We were one goal post away from making the game 2-0,” he recalled. “We hit the post into an empty net and they came back, the Americans, and equalized with 36 seconds left and it went into overtime and they beat us in overtime. That’s how close it gets to the Americans and us, and the Russians are back – they were suspended for a few years because of steroid issues. They are back. It’s basically a three-horse race and I’m just focusing on the Paralympic Games and it’s not far off.


Para hockey resembles stand-up hockey in almost every way, says Babey.

“It’s a very, very skilled sport,” Babey noted. “I am amazed at how gifted these athletes are. You know what, it’s also a very physical sport. There really is nowhere to hide there. In stand-up hockey, as I call it, you can spin, you can stand against the glass. If you hit someone in the knees in these sleds, they take the full impact. If you hit the boards, you get full impact on the boards, not the glass.

“It’s a very high level sport. It’s hockey, but you get to adjust some drills because defenders can’t skate backwards, so you do a little more angling and that kind of stuff so you can adjust to one-on-one, two-on-one against one, three… to two.


Babey grew up and played all of her minor hockey in Saskatoon. He played for the Saskatoon Jr. Quakers, but he hurt his shoulder badly.

He didn’t think he could go anywhere as a player, so he went to the University of Saskatchewan and got his education degree and, “thanks to my education degree, I became a coach. minor hockey in Saskatoon,” recalls Babey.


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“That’s when I became a coach, through teaching, then I evolved.

He spent most of my coaching career in Calgary, where he got involved in coaching through the midget AAA system before joining SAIT.

“It was back when universities didn’t have full-time coaches, so you had to be an administrator or a teacher and you coached an extra team,” Babey said.

“It’s been a great career, but it’s probably because of my degree in education that I started in the first place. I loved it and learned from some of the best trainers in the world like Clare Drake, Dave King, George Kingston, Tom Renney… It’s who I grew up with during my training. I was lucky to be around Calgary, so close to the national program when he was there.

Babey’s mother, Lorraine Stewart, who is 88, still lives in Saskatoon.

With others his age in their retirement years, Babey was asked how much longer he will continue coaching.

“You know what, that’s a great question – I don’t know,” he replies quickly.

“I feel very dynamic. I am healthy. I love it. I’m on the ice four days a week here in Calgary with five players from Alberta who are part of our national program. We’ve been doing it since COVID happened. You know what, I just got off the ice about half an hour ago. We had a great session. I liked it. I always like being on the ice with the guys. When you have a passion and you appreciate it, it’s hard to leave it, man. It’s not necessarily my age. When I was young, I think a lot of guys stayed because they were still healthy and fit. You know what? You can always use experienced coaches I believe.

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