The University of Saskatchewan (USask) athletics department announced on Saturday afternoon that former NHL coach Mike Babcock will be the new head coach of the men’s hockey team.
Babcock is a Stanley Cup champion, two-time Olympic gold medal-winning coach and grew up in Saskatchewan.
Huskie Athletics chief athletics officer Dave Hardy announced on Saturday that Babcock will coach the Huskies on a full-time volunteer basis for the next two seasons.
Babcock is replacing Huskies coach Dave Adolph who announced his retirement in December 2020. According to the Huskies, Adolph served as head coach for 27 years and has had the most wins of any coach in Canadian university men’s hockey history.
One of Babcock’s tasks will be to help the athletic department find and hire a new associate coach who will help lead the team and eventually take over as head coach after two seasons.
Babcock told Global News being home with family was a factor in his decision to take the coaching job.
“For us, to have the opportunity to be around family is pretty special, that part’s exciting,” Babcock said.
“There’s no question about it, home was one of the main driving forces,” he added.
Babcock’s wife has family in Alberta and Saskatchewan and he has family in Saskatoon.
“This is an exciting and historic day for Huskie Athletics, and we are thrilled that Mike wants to come back home to lead our men’s hockey program,” said Hardy.
“We are extremely fortunate that the timing lined up perfectly to create this opportunity. Mike’s track record of success speaks for itself, and he will be a great addition to Huskie Athletics, to the men’s hockey program, and to the local hockey community.”
Babcock coached for 17 seasons in the NHL. He won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008. He also guided Team Canada to back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 2010 and 2014.
Despite living and coaching in other provinces and states, Babcock said his family has remained tied to the community. The family travelled back to Saskatchewan in the summers and had a place at Meeting Lake and later Emma Lake.
“We thought it was important to bring our kids home to be around family (and) to be around the people of Saskatchewan,” he said.
The university praised Babcock’s coaching efforts, mentioning that he is the only coach in hockey history to have won the Stanley Cup, Olympic gold, the World Cup, the World Hockey Championship and the World Junior Championship.
Babcock played for the Huskies in 1981 for one season before returning to the Western Hockey League (WHL).
“I am excited to work with Huskie athletes, back in my hometown, at the university where I had the opportunity to play under legendary coach Dave King,” said Babcock in a Huskie Athletics press release.
“This is a special place for me, and I look forward to having the chance to help develop these young men,” Babcock added. “Saskatchewan has provided me many opportunities in my life and my career, and I am truly excited about the opportunity to give back.”
USask president Peter Stoicheff said the university is pleased to welcome Babcock.
“Volunteering his time, Mike Babcock will build on the proud and successful tradition of the Huskie hockey program, with the ultimate goal of winning the national championship. We are honoured and grateful that he has chosen to return home and rejoin the Huskies to offer his services to help take our program to a new level,” Stoicheff said.
Babcock will start his new role with the Huskies in May after Adolph officially retires on May 1.
The 2020-21 season was cancelled due to the pandemic, however the Huskies are looking to return to play in 2021-22.
— With files from Ryan Flaherty