It’s a riot. I appreciate it like crazy ‘

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Mike Babcock is back in school with a doctorate in coaching.

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A Stanley Cup ring, two Olympic gold medals and a world championship title mean he has dominated his classes in the professional game, working in Anaheim, Detroit and Toronto, behind the bench for Canada in 2010 and 2014, as well as head of the world championships in Prague in 2004.

But, between jobs in the NHL after the Maple Leafs let him go on Nov. 19, 2019, after more than four years there, he’s back where it all began.

Circle of life.

After starting at Red Deer College at the age of 26 in 1988, training juniors in Moose Jaw and Spokane, as well as a year at the University of Lethbridge in 1993-94 before moving to the pros, Babcock, 58 years old is now the volunteer head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. They were in town Friday and Saturday for exhibition games against the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

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He now has his son Michael by his side on the bench, a joy for a career coach.

But not Nick Lidstrom or Pavel Datsyuk. No Auston Matthews or John Tavares.

Instead, former Edmonton Oil Kings juniors Vince Loschiavo and Parker Gavlas. Connor Hobbs, who played for the Hershey Bears and Chance Petruic of the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Babcock is the big man on the Saskatoon campus. And he loves the concert.

What has changed for the players at Red Deer College so far?

“I couldn’t tell you. I do not remember. They are good kids, they have played in the Western Hockey League for a long time, they are men when they arrive. They are excited to be the best they can be at the rink and the best they can be at school. They are all in it and a lot of fun to be around. It’s nice, ”said Babcock, who took over from retired Dave Adolph, who coached the Huskes for 27 years.

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Coaching pros is obviously different from coaching student-athletes because the NHL or the American Hockey League is a business and playing hockey in addition to being in the classroom is a plus for the Huskies and Golden Bears.

“They come to the rink and just want to be good. You have a good training time at the college level, they want the latest technology, they want you to teach them the game. You have to be understanding. Sometimes there are mid-sessions or other things going on. Sometimes a man’s wife is pregnant. There’s a lot going on here and in the NHL with everyone. We are simply asking our players to be in the present. Our guys are often 21 years old after their WHL career. They are three years older than some guys in the pro, ”he said.

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Obviously, he would love to get another NHL shot, but “that’s what I’m enjoying right now. I don’t have a plan after March (end of season). ”

Babcock was thrown in the deep end at Red Deer College after playing in the WHL.

“I didn’t know anything about hockey (coach). I just knew if you played hard you had a chance. Same thing today, but I know a little more about the game and about life, ”he said.

Babcock, who grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, couldn’t refuse the volunteer position.

“The main reason I do this is because of my family ties. We stopped in Lloydminster for five minutes and saw my 88 year old stepfather and we had a quick coffee, ”he said.

“My sisters and their families spend all the time (at his home) at his home and my son who is working on his MBA is on the bench with me. This is the # 1 reason I’m doing this. Saying all this, it’s a riot. I appreciate him like crazy.

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His son also does it on a voluntary basis.

“I don’t know what he wants to do with it (MBA). Maybe he just wants to be a hockey coach. He was captain of the United States junior team, his varsity team, went to play in France and came back, sold software and didn’t like a lot, so he’s doing that, ”Babcock said.

“I don’t know anything about this league (U-Sports), let’s be honest. I’ve known NHL players for quite a while, so I know what an NHL player is, but not a varsity player, ”said Babcock, who uses many of the same drills he had in Detroit, at Toronto and Anaheim to kick off their NHL. travel after two years in Cincinnati, the farm club of the AHL Ducks.

“NHL players just create space better than college players. It’s more of a grinding game. If you were a midget triple A coach, you would say the same thing (about skill levels), ”said Babcock, U-Sports officially starting Oct. 15.

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Babcock was certainly a teacher with Oilers winger Zach Hyman in his Toronto debut. Hyman says he owes his NHL career to Babcock.

“Mike has been one of the most influential people in my career. He believed in me from the start. At the start of my career, a lot of people doubted how I played. He stayed with me and helped me develop my game, ”Hyman said.

Babcock said: “Zach is a very good player, isn’t he? He plays hard and when you want to win you face the players who play the hardest. It’s like a dog on a bone, he’s going to get you the puck. He makes the players better, that’s his greatest skill. He can play in playoff time and the first game of the year and there is no maintenance. Comes to work every day.

Email: jmatheson@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @jimmathesonnhl

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