Mike, can you talk about your impressions of being out there at practice and, why, if you think this game is important, this kind of game, why it is?BABCOCK:
Well, I think it's hugely important. It's important for selling the game, and I think the attention that it gets, not just from your hockey fan, but just from everybody, is fantastic.
And for a player or for a coach, and I don't care if you're Chris Chelios or if you're Jiri Hudler
, in some way your career probably started a little bit outdoors. And when you're out there, I mean, it feels fantastic.
I can tell you for a group like ours, a veteran group that's been through what we've been through the last year and a half, it's something to get excited about.
The National Hockey League is like Ground Hog Day. What I mean is it wears you out. And what that is, that's a great thing because the mentally tough survive.
I know when you've been through what we've been through, you're not as pumped every night as you'd like to be, and something like this gets you excited. And I think the Blackhawks were excited to play us last night. I think they'll be real excited tomorrow. I know we're excited to play.
And the whole thing that goes with it, I think is so important with your family, with sharing it with people, is fantastic. Yet, when the puck drops, tomorrow it's a big two points on the line. Q.
Can you just confirm what you're going to do with the lineup on, one, Samuelsson, and also Nick and Chelios said they're both in. So who would come out on defense?BABCOCK:
The good thing about it is I know Chelios is in. Nick hasn't talked to me yet, so when he talks to me, I know sometimes he lets you guys know before he lets me know. I just haven't had a chance to catch him. If he's in, then we'll work it out. So that means we're probably going to be 11 and 7. Q.
Are you going to wear the touque tomorrow?BABCOCK:
You coached all over the world. Have you ever experienced anything, the gap between your dressing room, the stairs, everything else, and the ice surface?BABCOCK:
No, but even that I think is fantastic. It's something different. And it creates excitement to me. I went out to the ice today behind Datsyuk, like I always do, and even he was talking about it. Getting warm?up on the way out to the ice kind of thing.
It's a great thing. I think the event is fantastic. Some of the seats are going to be tough for fans, obviously, but you're here for an event. And it's New Year's and it's a fantastic way to kick off the new year.
And I think you've got two really good hockey clubs. It should be a great atmosphere and I think a great way to sell the game. Q.
Do you feel as though having Conklin in net, who has been involved in two outdoor games already, is it somewhat of an advantage having him there playing goal?BABCOCK:
Well, we think if he plays like he did last night, it's an advantage just because he's a good goalie. But that's not going to have any bearing, in my opinion. Two teams are going to play on the same sheet of ice. And it's going to be the same for both of us.
And sometimes the puck's going to bounce when it shouldn't. I think that's part of the event.
The bottom line is you gotta find a way to get two points. And I think Conks did a great job for us. Shot us 9?1 in the early going last night. They had two power plays. They two quality goalie chances in that time, and that allowed us to get settled down and going. And we need the same from him tomorrow. Q.
Is it important to have Chelios in the lineup tomorrow to be a part of this whole thing?BABCOCK:
I think Chelios is an important part of our team. I don't think Ken Holland would have him on our team if he wasn't important to our team. So what we try to do is we try to win each and every day, and we try to make the decisions the best to help us win, and that's what we're going to do again tomorrow. Q.
Based on what you saw, did you think the ice is good enough for these teams to show the skill that they each have?BABCOCK:
Sure. There's going to be lots of skill. There's all kinds of skills in the game. Sometimes the way the other team plays is you don't get to play with the same kind of skill through the neutral zone or the way they play defense makes it harder on you. Sometimes the ice, in the National League, you go down south, it isn't great. It's going to be every bit as good as it is lots of nights.
Sometimes you get a power play in the first minute of a period and the ice is real nice, and sometimes you don't. Sometimes you have a shooting power play, sometimes you've got to pass. Q.
When was the last time you either coached or played outdoors?BABCOCK:
I don't know what year it was, whether it was '82, '3, '5, something like that. When I was at McGill University, we played in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and it snowed that night. We played one of the elite division teams over there. I still have pictures of it. It was a fantastic memory. I remember shoveling the ice during the game when they'd stopped every five minutes to get the ice off and lifting the puck to try to make it go and stuff like that. It's something you always remember. And I think this game will be no different.
I know our players, we were playing last year right after the Winter Classic, and our players were glued to the TV watching it with the excitement, and this should be no different. Q.
Coach, some of the players are saying that they feel kind of like kids again going outside to play. Do you feel like that?BABCOCK:
Absolutely. I am a kid compared to some of the age of our kids. No, just kidding. (Laughter).
That's what it's about. To me, that's why being involved in the sport is so fantastic because really, what you're doing is you get to play for a living. And that's what kids is all about. And you want to have fun.
One of the things that I'm a big believer is, and Kenny Holland does a fantastic job with the Red Wings, is he creates an atmosphere of fun. Now, when you win every day, it's a lot more fun anyway.
You have to enjoy what you're doing in all walks of life, and if you can enjoy this game, to me, you're better at it. And this is a great setting to do that.