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Babcock says goodbye to Red Wings: 'I love it here'

by Staff /

Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said Friday what led him to leave the Detroit Red Wings after 10 seasons as coach was the need for a new challenge.

"I love it here," Babcock said after cleaning out his office at Joe Louis Arena. "But I also think that it was time for me … I wanted a different challenge."

Babcock was hired by the Maple Leafs on Wednesday, signing an eight-year, $50 million contract, according to TSN and Sportsnet.

Babcock said Friday it wasn't only the money that lured him to Toronto.

"So in the end, is it about money, sure it’s about money," Babcock told the Red Wings website. "There was enough money in every place it didn't have a factor in any of the decision. I don't know if that makes any sense. Once you got to a certain point. I already have enough suits, I'm good."

Babcock was believed to be considering coaching the Buffalo Sabres or staying with the Red Wings. Detroit granted him permission to talk to other teams before his contract expired June 30.

"It's way easier just to get fired," Babcock said. "You just get fired and you just find the next team to get going. You don't think about it, but when you’re leaving unbelievable people. … It's hard to leave. But I'm excited for the opportunity and I'm thankful for what they did for me here."

He became emotional at times thanking members of the Red Wings organization, from owners Mike Ilitch and Marian Ilitch to general manager Ken Holland to broadcaster Mickey Redmond and a number of his players.

"I talked to [Henrik Zetterberg] and [Pavel Datsyuk]," Babcock said. "I love those guys. I'm going to be friends with those guys forever. When Pav goes home one day and sets up his sports school, I'm going to go out. They're great men. You don't win as a coach without great players and great leadership. They provided me with an opportunity."

The Red Wings have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 24 straight seasons; the Maple Leafs have been there once in the previous 10.

"Can we make it go like the Red Wings? That's our goal and our hope," Babcock said.

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