Babcock all business

By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — Mike Babcock could have set off the metal detectors at Vancouver International Airport with his stare Sunday.

Steely?

Yup.

The Team Canada coach showed up with his game face on as he hit town to take the helm and finalize preparations for Canada’s first game Tuesday against Norway.

After concentrating on his Detroit Red Wings, Babcock can now fully allow himself to turn his attention to prepping Team Canada.

“Now it’s time to emotionally engage,” said Babcock. “We’ve done all the work, but you’re so involved in your own schedule. I live in the U.S., so you don’t get it like you people do every day. It’s very obvious — I watched the opening ceremonies, I watched the events last night — so it’s very obvious that it’s very exciting. I’m thrilled to be here.”

Babcock is charged with running a team that faces perhaps the greatest expectations ever dropped on players wearing the Maple Leaf, playing on their home ice. Canada, along with Russia, are regarded as the favourites.

“There’s no question that there’s expectations — there’s expectations because we have a chance,” said Babcock. “But there’s other countries with a chance, too. As we’ve seen so far in the Olympics, it’s a fine line. You have to be at your very best and we’ve prepared that way. We’ll continue to prepare that way, we’ll get better each and every day and we’ll be fine.”

Babcock arrived here along with the rest of the players and staff whose clubs wrapped up their NHL schedules Saturday night. Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings, Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames, Chris Pronger and Jeff Carter of the Philadelphia Flyers and Czechs Patrick Elias of the New Jersey Devils and Tomas Plekanec of the Montreal Canadiens all made their way through the airport Sunday. Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin swept through, sparking a stampede.

The rest of Team Canada was to arrive Sunday night after concluding the NHL schedule.

Carter is here in case Anaheim Duck Ryan Getzlaf can’t play because of his sprained ankle. He’s to be examined by Team Canada doctors to determine his status.

“It’s nice to know you’re still in the loop. It’s a tough situation, but we’ll see what happens,” said Carter as he waited for Pronger to sign autographs for a throng of fans.

The coaches and players admitted the Olympics have been kicking around their thoughts, but until Sunday had to concentrate on the fortunes of their club teams.

“Obviously, the Kings were my first thoughts, but it’s always been in the back of my mind,” Doughty, the dynamic young defenceman. “When I got on that flight this morning, it really started to set in and I got really excited to be here.”

Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla, about to play in his third Olympics, was greeted by fans when he came out of the arrival area, giving him just a hint of what Team Canada will get playing at home.

“It’s a little different (at each Olympics), but the excitement at every one has been very special. This probably takes the cake. As I get here, the butterflies go and I’m looking forward to being a part of it, getting our first practice and the games. The energy...I can’t imagine how cool it’s going to be playing right here in Canada, right in Vancouver here,” he said.

“We’re excited,” added Babcock. “We think we have an opportunity. I don’t know what else you could ask for - the Olympics are in your home country, obviously Vancouver is a beautiful, beautiful city. We get to show off how proud Canadians are and what a great place we have. And we get to show off how good we are at hockey.”

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

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