February 27, 2010
Babcock bracing for big game
By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
VANCOUVER — Mike Babcock has the biggest job in Canada Sunday.
As coach of Team Canada, all he’s tasked with is delivering a gold medal in men’s hockey and re-establishing a nation’s pride. And sanity.
Not that he isn’t up to challenges.
When he was the player-coach in 1987 of the Whitley Warriors in England, shortly after graduating from McGill University, he faced and overcame a huge hurdle.
“The way I became a good coach there was I got the guys to drink on Monday and Tuesday instead of Friday and Saturday,” he said.
I’m guessing if he can do that, beating Team USA Sunday can’t be that hard, can it?
Sunday’s game is the one that has been circled on every Canadian’s calendar since the Olympics were awarded to Vancouver a half-dozen years ago.
This might be the most anticipated game in Canadian hockey history, the opportunity for Canada to reclaim gold in the game we consider our own.
The upstart Americans, the youngest team in the tournament, would love nothing better than to avenge Canada’s 2002 victory on American soil in Salt Lake.
The anticipation, the demands, the expectations are enormous.
“I think pressure is a real positive. I wouldn’t be doing what I do if I didn’t love it,” Babcock said. “You’re an adrenaline junkie if you’re in sports. The highs are very high. If you’ve been in the Olympic Village all week like I have, you see people totally elated and you see people totally crushed.
“The reason they’re in it is because there are two sides to the equation. That’s what makes your job exciting. That’s what this is all about.”
Babcock has won just about everywhere he’s been. A CIS title with the University of Lethbridge, a Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings. Now, a chance for Olympic gold.
Maybe it’s just a way to deal with the pressure, but Babcock said Saturday that winning the gold is more about the group than the country. That’s a good mental defence. Keep it small when everybody else is thinking big.
“Don’t get me wrong. We’d like to do it for the country. We’d like to do it for everybody involved, but we’d like to do it for ourselves first,” he said. “You win together and you walk together forever. I really believe that.”
He got the inevitable question about comparing the silver shine of a Stanley Cup to the golden glint of a potential Olympic medal. Two different cultures, two different tournaments, two different sets of demands.
He talked about it with associate coach Jacques Lemaire Saturday, the feeling of waking up on the morning of a game that can define careers.
A Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Final.
An Olympic gold-medal showdown.
“I can tell you this: I’m not giving my Stanley Cup back,” Babcock said. “This is a great opportunity. The Stanley Cup is a marathon of hope. It goes on forever. This is a short tournament and it is a different thing because it’s not your guys. You don’t know them as well. You’ve got to get them to come together in a shorter time.
“Somebody is going to be very happy,” he added, “and we expect it’s going to be us.”