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Babcock to coach Canada's Olympians

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Mike Babcock has led two Canadian teams to gold in the past. He'll be asked to do it again on a much bigger stage -- the 2010 Olympics.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was named coach of Canada's Olympic men's hockey team today in Montreal, where the NHL has congregated for the amateur draft, which is Friday and Saturday.


Babcock, 46, had been the leading candidate since October when Red Wings vice president Steve Yzerman was named Team Canada's executive director.

It was also announced Thursday that Babcock will be joined by a trio of assistants that possess 47 years of NHL coaching experience: Jacques Lemaire, Lindy Ruff and Ken Hitchcock.

“With Canada’s great passion for hockey, we are lucky to be able to count on a long list of quality Canadian coaches, which gave the management group many great options,” Yzerman said. “As a group, we are very pleased with the coaching staff that we have announced today, a group with extensive international and professional experience and success. We look forward to the challenge ahead and are proud to represent Canada in Vancouver in February.”

In four seasons with the Red Wings, Babcock has compiled a 213-77-38 record -- that's a .707 winning percentage -- and led the team to the 2008 Stanley Cup and to Game 7 of the '09 Cup finals. He is the first head coach in NHL history with four consecutive 50-win seasons since Scotty Bowman (Montreal, 1975/76 – 1978/79), also making Babcock the first coach in NHL history to win four consecutive 50-win seasons in each of his first four years with a team.

Babcock has a career coaching record of 282-139-71 in the NHL and already has 58 postseason victories.

This will be the third time that Babcock will lead a Canadian national team in an international event.

Since moving to Detroit from Anaheim, Babcock has enjoyed tremendous success, coaching four-straight seasons of 50 or more wins. Internationally, he became the first Canadian coach to lead both the Canadian World Junior team (1997) and Canadian World Championship team (2004) to titles.

Lemaire, who won eight Stanley Cups in 12 seasons as a member of the Montreal Canadiens, will make his international coaching debut at the 2010 Games. In April, he resigned as coach of the Minnesota Wild, the only coach in the franchise's eight-season existance. Prior to the Wild, Lemaire, 63, coached two seasons in Montreal, followed by five with New Jersey, where his Devils swept the Red Wings in the 1995 Stanley Cup finals.
Team Canada introduced its coaching staff Thursday in Montreal. They are (L-R) head coach Mike Babcock, and assistants Jacques Lemaire, Lindy Ruff and Ken Hitchcock.

Currently the longest tenured NHL head coach, Ruff, who just finished his 12th season with the Buffalo Sabres, was the Canada's head coach in May when they captured the IIHF World Championship in Switzerland. Ruff, 49, played 12 NHL seasons as a defenseman with the Sabres and New York Rangers, compiling 300 points in 691 games.

When it comes to international experience, Hitchcock is the most-senior member of Canada's 2010 Olympic staff. The Vancouver Games will mark the seventh time that he has helped coach a Canadian team in an international event.

He was an associate coach on Canada's 2002 Olympic team that ended a 50-year drought when it took the gold medal with a 5-2 win over the United States in Salt Lake City.

Hitchcock, 57, has been an NHL coach in some capacity, either as a head coach or assistant, for 17 seasons. He coached the Dallas Stars to a Stanley Cup championship over Ruff's Sabres in 1999.

This season, Hitchcock guided the Columbus Blue Jackets to its first-ever Stanley Cup playoff appearance. The Wings swept the Jackets four straight in the Western Conference quarterfinals.

Next for Yzerman and Canada's management team, is to finalize an invitation list for the team's orientation camp, which is slated for August 24-28 in Calgary.

Team Canada's hunt for gold begins with a Group A preliminary match-up against Norway on Feb. 16 at GM Place, which has been renamed Canada Hockey Place for the 2010 Olympics.

The gold medal game is scheduled for Feb. 28.

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