By Earl Zukerman
Hockey Canada confirmed on Monday that McGill University graduate Mike Babcock will return as head coach of the Canadian Olympic team in hopes of defending the men’s Olympic hockey gold in Sochi, Russia, next February.
Also returning will be assistant coaches Ken Hitchcock and Lindy Ruff. A newcomer to the staff is Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins.
“Canada’s coaching staff has a great deal of international and professional experience for the challenge that awaits us in Sochi,” said Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman, in a press release.
Babcock, 50, who was born in Manitouwadge, Ont., and raised in Saskatoon, Sask., played defence for the McGill Redmen from 1983 to 1987. He graduated in 1986 with a physical education degree and studied sports psychology for an additional year before embarking on his coaching career.
He is the only coach to earn championship rings from five different major levels of hockey, including the 2010 Winter Olympics and 2004 IIHF world championships. He also led Detroit to a Stanley Cup conquest in 2008, guided Canada to victory at the IIHF world junior championship in 1994 and coached the University of Lethbridge to a CIS national title in 1994. Since his career began in 1988, Babcock has coached in a combined 1,877 games overall, heading into the 2013-14 campaign. He has compiled a 1,025-688-165 lifetime record (.586), including a 146-101 mark in playoffs.
“I am extremely proud to represent my country and coach Team Canada,” said Babcock, author of a national best-selling book (Leave no doubt: A credo for chasing your dreams). “To win gold in Canada [in 2010] was a dream come true.
“In February, we will have a whole set of new challenges with a new group of players and staff.”
Forty-seven players are expected attend the Olympic orientation camp from Aug. 25-28 in Calgary.
Babcock, who has reached the Stanley Cup final three times with Anaheim (2003) and Detroit (2008 & 2009), is one of 14 former McGill hockey player to get his name engraved on the Cup and only the fourth to do so as a coach, along with Jamie Kompon (Los Angeles and Chicago) and the legendary Patrick brothers, Frank and Lester.