Mike Babcock took a break from his duties as Canada’s World Cup of Hockey head coach to visit up-and-coming athletes at a KidSport luncheon on Wednesday in Saskatoon.
Babcock was joined by World Cup assistant coaches Claude Julien, Barry Trotz and Joel Quenneville at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.
“I spent a ton of time at Kinsmen Arena here as a kid growing up,” Babcock said.
In a brief speech, Canada’s bench boss told the crowd of kids clad in bright yellow KidSport t-shirts about the importance of hard work, friendship and fitness.
“To me, the greatest gift in sport is the opportunity to find your passion and grow your confidence,” said Babcock, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and head coach of the 2008 Stanley Cup champions Detroit Red Wings.
KidSport is a charity that helps families overcome financial barriers to enrol their kids in sports.
“I can’t imagine a kid not being able to play because he couldn’t afford to play. So if you have a passion for something, ideally in this world, you get a chance to do it,” Babcock said.
People at Wednesday’s event also took time to remember the namesake of the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.
In his 10 years of coaching the Red Wings, Babcock worked with Gordie Howe’s son Mark, who is now the team’s director of pro scouting.
“I got to know Gordie real well, treated our family really, really well, so to be here and honour him too is real special,” Babcock said.
Often remembered for being an undeniable force on the ice and a gentle giant off it, Howe made an impact on Saskatoon-Grasswood MP Kevin Waugh at a golf tournament.
Waugh watched a child, five or six years old, ask Mr. Hockey for an autograph.
Babcock, Julien, Trotz and Quenneville will take part in the Peters & Pilon Celebrity Golf Tournament, which includes a sold-out banquet Wednesday night and a golf game Thursday at Dakota Dunes Golf Links.