By Earl Zukerman
Mike Babcock stuck with tradition and opted to wear his lucky McGill tie as Canada completed their golden Olympic odyssey, blanking Sweden 3-0 Sunday, to capture the admiration of a nation after winning the men’s hockey tournament before a world-wide audience.
Canada won all six games at the Sochi Games, outscoring opponents by an impressive 17-3 margin to deliver back-to-back gold trinkets to the country for the first time since the 1948 and 1952 Games. This time around, Canada defeated Norway, Austria, Finland, Latvia and the United States to reach the gold medal game.
Babcock, a 50-year-old born in Manitouwadge, Ont., and raised in Saskatoon, Sask., wore a special edition black McGill necktie, with contrasting white stripes and a sprinklIng of the McGill coat of arms in white. It was the same tie he wore when receiving an honorary law doctorate from McGill last fall. The end result was that Babcock improved his lifetime record to 8-3 while wearing a McGill tie behind the bench. At the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, he opted for a more traditional red McGill tie in the final and guided Canada to a 7-0 record in a gold-glittered route.
“You have to line up the moon and stars to win,” said Babcock to the media before the rendezvous with the Swedes. “People don’t believe that, but it’s the facts. I just think that we’ve tried to build a program. I’m a big believer in building programs. And it doesn’t matter in short-term events or long-term events, we try to treat people right and we try to get everyone to be important.”
Winning a second Olympic gold is just another feather in the cap for Babcock, the man with the Midas touch who now has hitched six major championships to his coaching belt, including a Stanley Cup title in 2008, when he led the Detroit Red Wings to victory. Other impressive milestones include a CIS national championship with the University of Lethbridge in 1994, the IIHF world junior championship behind the bench for Canada in 1997 and the IIHF world senior championship in 2004.
During his undergraduate years, he was a two-time all-star defenceman with the McGill Redmen hockey team from 1983 to 1987. He served as co-captain and shared team MVP honours in 1986-87. Babcock graduated in 1986 with a degree in education and spent a year as a player-coach in England, before returning to McGill, where he took sports psychology courses for another year. From there, he embarked on a long but fruitful coaching career with stops at Red Deer College (CCAA), the Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL), Spokane Chiefs (WHL), Cincinnati Mighty Ducks (AHL), Anaheim Ducks (NHL) and Detroit Red Wings (NHL).
In 2012, he authored a book, “Leave No Doubt – a credo for chasing your dreams”, about his experience at the Vancouver Olympics which highlighted the theme that one cannot accomplish great things without facing great adversity and making peace with uncertainty. For over a decade, Babcock has brought this message on countless visits to children’s hospitals where he spends time getting to know cancer patients and their families.
It’s only a matter of time until the Hockey Hall of Fame knocks on his door. But until then, he’ll make do with the fact that at least one of his McGill ties – maybe two now – will be in the hallowed Hall before him.