Former Detroit Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman said Friday he can see why Mike Babcock is now coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"I wasn't surprised Mike left Detroit," Bowman told the Edmonton Journal. "The offers were high in Buffalo (and Toronto). I don't know if Detroit wanted to go that high."
Babcock was hired by the Maple Leafs on Wednesday after 10 seasons with the Red Wings. Detroit gave Babcock permission to look elsewhere with his contract expiring June 30 and failing to sign him to a new one before that.
Babcock's eight-year contract is reportedly worth $50 million. He also considered the Buffalo Sabres.
"[Detroit] knew it would be tough to keep him because it had gone on for so long," Bowman told writer Jim Matheson. "... There's the lure of Toronto and Canada; it's the biggest market, the wealthiest team."
Bowman won the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 1997, 1998 and 2002, the last of his nine seasons there. He said the Red Wings were prepared for Babcock leaving.
"Detroit probably expected something to happen [with Babcock] because they retained Jeff Blashill," Bowman said of their American Hockey League coach. "I think he'll be the leading candidate to coach there now. They didn't want to lose him last year and said they were counting on him [replacing Babcock] if he was willing to wait."
Blashill has said he wants the job in Detroit.
Bowman faced a similar circumstance when he left the Montreal Canadiens after his fourth consecutive Stanley Cup to sign with the Buffalo Sabres in 1979. He told Matheson he doubled his salary.
"I think it was $200,000 and I was getting $90,000 or $100,000," he said.
Bowman is a senior adviser of hockey operations for the Chicago Blackhawks, where his son Stan Bowman is general manager.