Coach adds Canadian flavour to Danes

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

One year after leading the junior national squad to one of its biggest triumphs, the Danish Ice Hockey Union is counting on Calgary's Ken Babey to bring his 'A' game to the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships.

Babey, the head coach of the SAIT men's hockey team, will be behind the bench for Denmark's debut at the tournament, where he'll lead a squad of virtual unknowns into battle against Team Canada and other international hockey powers.

Nobody is picking the Danes to bring home a medals, but Babey is hopeful his squad could "steal a game or two.

"It's a David and Goliath situation, but we're up for the challenge and I'm excited. We're going to try to stay positive. It's an old cliche but we're going to really have to do that," Babey said.

"Each day you have to get up and go for it. Our goal is not just to play, we want to compete."

Babey also coached Denmark at the B championships last year, where the gritty Danes captured gold and scored a promotion to the top pool.

That's where they want to stay, meaning they're out to finish among the top-eight at the 10-team tourney. As Babey pointed out, it won't be an easy task. Denmark's slate for round-robin includes a New Year's Eve date with Team Canada (on TSN), plus contests against Sweden, Slovakia and the host Czech Republic, all A-pool regulars.

"We know we're the underdogs," he said. "We have to, I think, relish in that role and play like spoilers. What I mean by that is we're going to have to play an honest, simple game. Guys are going to have to block shots and do all tose things just to keep it close. But we don't want to sit back too much.

"There's a fine balance a coach has to have in terms of their game plan."

Babey will jet overseas Monday, meeting the Danish national squad in Copenhagen for a final selection camp and then head to the Czech Republic for a five-day training camp. That gives Babey just one week to reinforce his style and prepare his charges for the world stage.

"We're going to be a hard-working team that prides itself on winning small battles and blocking shots and doing those sort of things. That's the message I've been sending," Babey said.

According to the International Ice Hockey Federation, only 4,100 Danes belong to organized hockey leagues and the country is home to just 19 indoor arenas. Calgary has more that twice that many.

But Babey, a six-time ACAC Coach of the Year and the all-time winningest skipper on Alberta's collegiate loop, says the Danish program is heading in the right direction.

Like the juniors, the men's national squad is also competing at the highest level.

"It's quite a step for them," he said. "They're very proud and classy, hard-working people so I had a great experience with them. That really made me want to come back and work with them."


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