Former Stanley Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold-medal winning coach Mike Babcock. (Photo: Rebecca Cook/Reuters)

Stanley Cup champion to coach Huskie men’s hockey

Stanley Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medal-winning coach Mike Babcock is the new head coach of the University of Saskatchewan (USask) Huskies men’s hockey team.

By James Shewaga

Huskie Athletics Chief Athletics Officer Dave Hardy announced Feb. 20 that the long-time NHL and Canadian national team head coach would lead the Huskies on a full-time volunteer basis for up to two seasons, while working with a new associate coach who will then take over full-time coaching duties. A former Huskie hockey player from Saskatoon, Babcock replaces Dave Adolph, who announced his retirement on Dec. 7, 2020, after 27 years coaching Huskie hockey.

“This is an exciting and historic day for Huskie Athletics, and we are thrilled that Mike wants to come back home to lead our men’s hockey program,” said Hardy. “We are extremely fortunate that the timing lined up perfectly to create this opportunity. Mike’s track record of success speaks for itself, and he will be a great addition to Huskie Athletics, to the men’s hockey program, and to the local hockey community.”

Babcock joins the Huskies after spending the past 17 seasons in the NHL, including guiding the Detroit Red Wings to the Stanley Cup championship in 2008 and coaching Canada to back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 2010 and 2014.

“I am excited to work with Huskie athletes, back in my hometown, at the university where I had the opportunity to play under legendary coach Dave King,” said Babcock, who played for the Huskies in 1981-82 before going back to the Western Hockey League (WHL). He later attended McGill University where he earned an education degree.

“This is a special place for me, and I look forward to having the chance to help develop these young men,” Babcock added. “Saskatchewan has provided me many opportunities in my life and my career, and I am truly excited about the opportunity to give back.”

Babcock is the only coach in hockey history to have won the Stanley Cup, Olympic gold, the World Cup, the world hockey championship and the world junior championship.

“We are all extremely excited. I know we were all surprised and did not expect to have a coach with that kind of resume come in and coach the Huskies,” said second-year defenceman Evan Fiala, a former captain of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades from Clavet who was named an Academic All-Canadian with the Huskies last year for his academic achievement in USask’s College of Education.

“We had a meeting with him and we are all looking forward to getting started with him as coach. As athletes playing at a high calibre who love to win and who are all students of the game, no one is more excited than us to have someone with that kind of experience and drive to learn from and to see what we can achieve.”

Babcock previously coached collegiate hockey at Red Deer College from 1988-1991 and one season in 1993-94 when he led the University of Lethbridge to the national championship, which he refers to as his “best work.” He spent eight years coaching in the WHL before moving on to the professional ranks, including serving as head coach of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, and Toronto Maple Leafs. He has since worked as a hockey analyst with NBC Sports and a volunteer hockey advisor with the University of Vermont.

“We are extremely pleased to welcome Mike Babcock, one of the most decorated hockey coaches in Canadian history, to USask and to Huskie Athletics as the new head coach of the men’s hockey team,” said USask President Peter Stoicheff. “Volunteering his time, Mike Babcock will build on the proud and successful tradition of the Huskie hockey program, with the ultimate goal of winning the national championship. We are honoured and grateful that he has chosen to return home and rejoin the Huskies to offer his services to help take our program to a new level.”

Babcock begins his new role with the Huskies in May, as Adolph retires as the winningest coach in Canadian university men’s hockey history. The Huskies captured the Canada West championship in 2020 prior to heading to nationals for the eighth time in nine years. After the 2020-21 season was cancelled due to the pandemic, the Huskies look to return a veteran-laden team in 2021-22.

“Mike Babcock is an outstanding addition to the USask team and will accelerate the development of the dedicated student-athletes in the Huskie hockey program,” said King, a former Huskie coach and USask alumnus, and member of the selection committee. “I have known Mike for more than 40 years and there is no coach in the game who has accomplished as much as he has. There is no doubt that he is the right guy for the job and will have a tremendous impact on the success of the Huskie men’s hockey program.”

Babcock was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws by USask in 2016, and made a member of the Order of Hockey in Canada in 2018.