"The best players in the world are going to be on this team and he's going to be the boss. He's a tremendous leader, he has tremendous passion and a tremendous work ethic and he has a plan. He put a plan in place in Detroit, and our players follow the plan. If they don't follow the plan, they don't play. That is part of being the presence and the boss that he is.""
-- Ken Holland on Mike Babcock
The Red Wings' Mike Babcock knows what it is like to win hockey's biggest prize -- the Stanley Cup. Now he'll have the chance to put in a claim on another piece of hallowed hockey hardware -- an Olympic gold medal.
On Thursday morning, Steve Yzerman
, the executive director of Team Canada's Men's Olympic Hockey Team, introduced Babcock as Team Canada's coach for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
"I believe he is at the top of his game right now," Yzerman said of Babcock.
If anyone should know about Babcock, it's Yzerman, a key member of the Red Wings' front office who has watched Babcock work on a daily basis for the past four years. During that time, Detroit has appeared in back-to-back Finals, winning in 2008, and made it to the Conference Final in 2007. Babcock also led Anaheim to the 2003 Stanley Cup Final, losing a seven-game series to New Jersey.
"We have a vision for how our team will play and the guys we want on that team and I am confident that Mike Babcock will take the reins and make that happen," Yzerman said.
For Babcock, the appointment to this post is a continuation of an amazing run of success that began when Anaheim named him as its coach in 2002. In 492 regular-season games with the Ducks and Red Wings, he has 282 victories and four consecutive divisional titles.
"I'm very excited, very proud and very humbled to be standing here today," Babcock said. "This is a whole new level of special."
Team Canada also named Babcock's associates, adding three highly experienced NHL coaches to the staff. Ken Hitchcock of the Columbus Blue Jackets
, Buffalo's Lindy Ruff
and Jacques Lemaire
, who resigned from the Minnesota Wild
after this past season, give Babcock a knowledgeable support system.
"The experience of this group gives you the confidence that we can get the job done," Babcock said.
While the group may be loaded with experience, it is Babcock who will be the face of Team Canada when it tries to become just the second host country to take a gold medal in men's hockey in Olympic history. Team USA has done it in 1960 and 1980.
To a man, Hockey Canada's brain trust can't think of a better man to put in the crosshairs of a demanding media and a hockey-obsessed fan base.
"He's had a lot of experience, and he's the boss," Detroit GM Ken Holland told NHL.com on Thursday. "He has a presence. When you walk into Calgary at the orientation camp (in August) or you walk into Vancouver at the Olympics, I think it's going to be important that somebody is comfortable walking into the middle of the room
"The best players in the world are going to be on this team, and he's going to be the boss. He's a tremendous leader, he has tremendous passion and a tremendous work ethic and he has a plan. He put a plan in place in Detroit, and our players follow the plan. If they don't follow the plan, they don't play. That is part of being the presence and the boss that he is."
The question then becomes if Babcock can get what is essentially a Canadian all-star team to buy into the "all-in" attitude that defines the success of his Red Wings team.
Hitchcock, whose team was swept by Babcock and the Red Wings this spring in the Western Conference quarterfinals, said that won't be a problem for the Team Canada coach. And when Babcock works his magic with Team Canada, the rest of the Olympic field better watch out, Hitchcock said.
"He's pushed his team to another level of competition based on 200 feet," Hitchcock said. "Some teams play at 150 feet and play well. His team has moved to a whole other level by playing 200 feet. He has a team that competes in both zones and at extremely high levels. He has a philosophy in doing it that way and has a lot of success. He's been able to convince elite players to play like this, which is a real feather in his cap."
Babcock said he's ready for the scrutiny that will come with his new job.
He knows 33 million Canadians will be dissecting and second-guessing every move that he and his Team Canada staff make from now until the Olympics end this winter. He also knows he will be heavily criticized if he can't deliver the gold medal his country hungers for after a disappointing seventh-place finish in 2006.
"I look at it as a great opportunity," Babcock said. "It's not about the pressure. It's about wanting to be as good as you can be. It's about executing. Is there going to be nerves? Absolutely. You wouldn't be in it and work this hard if there wasn't nerves and emotion. So, that's a great thing.
"Are we going be under scrutiny? Absolutely. They will break down everything we say and do. Guys in the room, the coaches and the management, we all understand what is at stake."