MONTREAL — As expected, Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock was introduced today as the head coach of Canada’s Men’s Olympic Hockey Team for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C.
Babcock’s assistant coaches will be Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff, Columbus’ Ken Hitchcock and former Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils bench boss Jacques Lemaire.
“I was looking for someone who would encourage the team to play the way I foresee the Canadian national team playing,” said Olympic team Executive Director Steve Yzerman, who knows Babcock well as a player and now Vice President of the Wings. “I not only expect us to be a strong offensive team, but our best players have to be responsible defensively. Having worked with him for a few years, I know that’s exactly what he expects from his top players.”
Babcock said he didn’t speak with Yzerman during the season about the post because he knew Yzerman was keeping him in consideration.
“I’m very honored, very proud and yet very humbled to be standing here today. … This is an exciting time for our country,” Babcock said. “To have an opportunity to be an Olympian is something that I thought about as a kid growing up. As much as the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Stanley Cup is unbelievably exciting, any time you have a chance to play for your country, be involved in your country, there’s a whole new level of specialness. So I’m excited.”
Yzerman said and his staff sat down with the coaching staff last night to discuss which players would be invited to the Hockey Canada camp in Calgary in August. Although they wanted to shorten the list, Yzerman said they would up lengthening it. Ideally, Yzerman would like to have the list at around 44. Boston Bruins centers Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron should garner some consideration for spots at the camp.
“We think the right way to go is to bring more guys. And just for practical purposes, being on the ice, there’s a certain number that makes it difficult to have them on the ice at the same time. And there’s another number that if you don’t have enough on the ice you can’t run a practice properly,” Yzerman said.
As for the coaching staff, Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien had been among the rumored names for assistant coach posts, but he didn’t make the cut. Yzerman said there were a lot of men in the running for those positions.
“It wasn’t a matter of knocking a guy off the list because he wasn’t qualified. There was a pretty solid list of people, very qualified, and could very justifiably be on this staff.”