Babcock will present the Ace Bailey Award of Courage to the family of Earl Cook, who lost his long battle with cancer earlier this month.
Cook, 23, had become more than a friend and fan of the Red Wings and Babcock, the coach said. Cook often made the trip from his home in Winnipeg to Detroit, where he was always a welcome guest in the Wings’ dressing room at Joe Louis Arena.
“Cancer is an interesting thing. And the greatest gift of cancer, in my opinion, is it allows to prepare people for your death,” Babcock said. “It allows you to say ‘goodbye’. So Earl will continue to live on in my life and in my family’s life, and in the Red Wings’ organization, because of the kind of person that he was and the way he touched us.”
Cook was born prematurely with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. And in 2007, he was diagnosed with a cancerous bone tumor and doctors had to amputate one of his legs.
Still, through it all, Cook managed to see the positive in life. And it was that outlook that made him an inspiration to others.
“He touched a lot people, and maximized his 22 or 23 years,” Babcock said. “Yet with all of the things that he had to go up against, he always found a way to have a good day just about every single day. … I thought he was a real sense of inspiration to myself, to my family and to this team. It puts things in perspective of what’s important.”
The award that Babcock will present to the Cook family, is named after former NHL player Garnet ‘Ace’ Bailey, who was aboard United Airlines Flight 175 when it crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11. At the time, Bailey was a pro scout for the Los Angeles Kings. He played in parts of 10 NHL seasons with four different teams, including the Red Wings from 1972-74.
“They had a beautiful funeral for Earl, and I’m very proud to have the opportunity to go and present him with the Ace Bailey Courage Award for his contribution,” Babcock said. “It will be great to present it to his family, and I’m sure it will be emotional. But I think it’s a celebration when you talk about Earl.” Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill