On Saturday, the University of Saskatchewan sent shockwaves through the hockey community. It announced former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach, Stanley Cup champion, and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Mike Babcock, as next coach for the Huskie men's hockey team.
“I don’t think anyone thought he would be one of the candidates that it would of come down to for the coaching job,” said U of S player Carter Folk. “It’s seems pretty wild."
Babcock, who has roots in Saskatoon, is slated to begin his new role in May 2021.
He will take on the role on a full-time volunteer basis for the next two seasons, according to the Huskie Athletics website.
"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," Babcock said in a statement on the website. "Saskatchewan has provided me many opportunities in my life and my career, and I am truly excited about the opportunity to give back."
The process began when former University of Saskatchewan Men’s head coach Dave Adolph stepped into retirement after 27 years of coaching the program. The athletics department put together a search committee to help fill the vacancy.
“I reached out to Mike Babcock, I had a previous relationship with him, to determine what his level of interest might be to come back home to coach our U of S Huskies,” said Huskie’s Chief Athletics Officer Dave Hardy.
Hardy admits it didn’t seem like the program was going to land the former Stanley Cup champion. But when discussions between the two parties continued through January, the possibility started to turn into reality.
“I think the opportunity to come home and coach college-level players was a great opportunity for him and a wonderful opportunity for Huskie Athletics,” Hardy said.
Babcock has not held a head coaching job since being fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2019.
Following his departure from Toronto, Babcock faced allegations that he had verbally abused players during his time with the Maple Leafs and Red Wings.
“I’m just like everyone else on my team, saw what happened there. I wasn’t there. As far as I know, he tried to make amends for that,” Folk said.
“For sure you’re going to have people that don’t agree with that. Personally, I’m going to reserve judgment until I get to experience him.”