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In praise of Mike Babcock, who doesn’t want you to be confused

Feb 23, 2014, 12:32 PM EDT

Canada's head coach Babcock directs his team during their men's team ice hockey practice at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Reuters

SOCHI, Russia — “Does anybody know who won the scoring race? Does anybody care? Does anybody know who won the gold medal?”

And with that, Mike Babcock stood up and exited the press conference, once again the head coach of the Olympic champs.

Sure, it would’ve been cooler if he’d dropped the mic before leaving, but it was still a pretty great exit, so far as exits from press conferences go.

The only performance more impressive might have been the one his Team Canada gave here in Sochi. Six games. Six wins. The first team to go undefeated at the Olympics since the 1984 Soviets in Sarajevo.

And while Canada, with all that great offensive talent on its roster, only scored 17 times, it only allowed three. All. Tournament. Long.

On top of that, in the two games that mattered most, against the toughest competition, Canada didn’t surrender a single goal. It was a 1-0 win over the United States in Friday’s semifinals, and a 3-0 suffocation of Sweden in Sunday’s final.

Just don’t tell Babcock he played a “defensive” system. Because he doesn’t like that.

“When you talk about great defense, sometimes we get confused,” he said. “Great defense means you play defense fast and you have the puck all the time. We’re always on offense.

“Don’t get confused. We out-chanced these teams big time; we didn’t score. We were a great offensive team. That’s how we coached. That’s what we expected. That’s what we got. We didn’t ask guys to back up.”

Team Canada executive director Steve Yzerman concurred.

“It wasn’t strictly playing defense,” he said. “We weren’t sitting in a shell. Part of our defense was being aggressive. Forechecking. Pressuring. Closing gaps. Not letting them get the red line, or get our blue line.”

You may recall a short time ago when Canada’s scoring ability was being called into question. Like after it only managed three goals versus minnow Norway. Or, after it escaped Finland with a 2-1 overtime win. Or, after another one-goal game versus Latvia in the quarterfinals, a 2-1 win that required a late tally from defenseman Shea Weber.

“No matter how hard people were on us that we weren’t scoring goals, we wanted to stick to our game and play hard defensively,” said Weber, crediting Babcock for maintaining the team’s belief in what it was doing.

“He just portrayed the message that’s it going to come. Defense wins championships. You’ve got to shut the other team’s top guys down and get timely scoring and you’re going to win.”

Meanwhile, forward Patrick Sharp praised Babcock for, not only a great game plan, but also infusing some timely good humor.

“He was one of the guys who was loose in the locker room, kept guys on their toes,” said Sharp.

Forward Jonathan Toews, who scored the game-winner versus Sweden, saw that too, and thought Babcock’s demeanor was an important contributor to the team’s success.

“I think that’s a big part of playing well is being loose and confident,” he said. “He wants that and I don’t think he ever overreacts to any situation. He’s always pretty calm on the bench. If you do something wrong, he lets you know right away, and he’s very detailed and to the point.”

Toews also lauded the coaching staff for getting buy-in from all the players, even the superstar offensive types who may have been prone to veering from the plan, if they weren’t convinced otherwise.

“As soon as we didn’t have possession (of the puck), we were working so hard to get it back,” he said. “We had some skilled, skilled forwards and d-men, but everyone was committed to playing a defensive game, and we created offense off it.”

Of course, according to forward Chris Kunitz, there wasn’t much choice but to obey the coaching staff’s rule. Not on a team as deep as Canada.

“They came here, gave you the information, expected you to understand it, and go on the ice and duplicate it,” he said. “And if you weren’t doing that, there was someone else going to be able to take your job.”

Now, let’s face it, Babcock had more great players to deploy than any coach at these Games, and he was more than willing to admit that.

“We had a good team,” he said, slightly understating the fact.

If Dan Bylsma and Zinetula Bilyaletdinov had the roster of Team Canada, maybe it would be one of them who made all the right moves, instead of all the wrong ones, apparently.

Still, coaching Canada has its own challenges. Gold as the only option. A cadre of stars, many of whom need to be used like role players, and need to accept that.

Two Olympics in a row now, Babcock has gotten the job done.

“It started in the summer when we went in there and we played ball hockey,” said Weber. “Everyone laughed at us. We went over systems.

“I think there might be a lot of teams that are going to try ball hockey now.”

PS – Phil Kessel won the scoring race.

  1. joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:04 PM

    Yes! Sir! Joey knows hockey. Directly from my mom’s basement;

    joey4id – Feb 23, 2014 at 9:43 AM

    This was without a doubt Canada’s best display of defensive hockey. It took every player every shift to play well defensively. Offense will win gams, but defense will win championships.

  2. joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    BTW, I do want to say thank you to all who ensured these games were safe, and void of any terrorist attacks. Awesome!

  3. patthehockeyfan - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:14 PM

    Hey, Jason. I wrote a comment on Halford’s “Golden again” article mentioning that you were the only PHT writer to correctly pick the teams in the Gold Medal game, and to correctly choose Canada.

    Well done!

  4. stcrowe - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    It would have been nice if Babcock had pulled a Richard Sherman and concluded by yelling, “Don’t you talk about me!”


  5. blomfeld - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    “I there might be a lot of teams that are going to try ball hockey now” ? …

    Perhaps Weber ought to spend a little more time studying grammar than playing ball hockey eh ? :)

    Congrats to Canada for their Gold performance and hats off to Sweden for giving it their best. Unfortunately I never did wake up last night as planned to see this game at 0400 hours PST. Now however upon reading what happened etc, perhaps that was a ‘good’ thing ? In all seriousness, this was probably the most ‘boring, suffocating and contrived’ hockey tournament that I can ever recall seeing ? … and that’s saying ‘something’ with me being a King’s fan and all ! The bottom line friends is that I don’t like Mike Babcock one bit and I ‘completely’ reject what he represents … the ‘deliberate and premeditated’ stifling of the way ‘our’ game was meant to be played … from the heart !

    “May it be that this agent of boredom now comes to rue his suffocating ways” …

    • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:37 PM

      heir blomfeld, Canada had many chances of scoring. That’s usually uncharacteristic of a defensive team. TC’s offensive players were not stifled by Babcock’s system.

  6. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Feb 23, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    Does anybody really know what time it is? Doo doo do dooo

    Defense wins championships in every sport, and Canada had the best D by far. Sure I would’ve liked to see that stacked offense go off for five goals a game….but I liked seeing them win gold better. Congrats to Babcock and the boys. Our whole nation is proud of you guys!

    • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:59 PM

      Defense wins championship in every sport. Really! idk, many have said your best defense is your offense…. What about; “Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, rebounding wins championships.”

      -Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers

      When you wrote best d by far, are you talking about d players or defensive system? If you are referring to latter then I agree because the forwards played very well defensively.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Feb 23, 2014 at 4:03 PM

        Yeah the system, every guy played all 200 ft. of the ice.

  7. 19wasthebest - Feb 23, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    Now Mr. Babcock would you please concentrate on your real job with the Detroit REDWINGS and get them back to where they should be. I really hope the NHL does not continue playing in the Olympics so this quits happening every 4 years.

    Anybody that does not believe it needs to go look at the record for the Wings in 2010 before the Olympics and after.

    • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 3:11 PM

      I don’t know. Devils were 16 games over .500 at the break in 2010 and finished 21 games over .500. Wings were 7 games over .500 at the break in 2010 and finished 20 games over .500, and 8-1-1 in the last 10 games. So, what are you talking about?

  8. gregg8776 - Feb 23, 2014 at 3:16 PM

    The stupidity of the American hockey fans never ceases to amaze me. The NHL hires the best hockey players in the world to play where? In the good old U S of A. OK, some games are played in Canada but the majority are played here. The American hockey fan bears the brunt of the cost of paying their salaries. I wonder how many NHL tickets are sold in Finland or Sweden?
    Yet when we play in supposedly amateur competitions, like the Olympics, these same athletes that I pay by buying tickets, play for their “home” country and defeat and embarrass my countries team and ultimately America in general. That’s bad enough but the bashing afterwards by these arrogant athletes and coaches is just too much.

    As one of thousands of ticket purchasers of the NHL, I have had enough. I will not purchase any more hockey tickets. I really don’t expect that my actions will impact the greedy owners and the foreign athletic whores but maybe if enough other fans have the same opinion, we can send a message. Remember who butters your bread!

    As for the loose cannon POS Mike Babcock

    • patthehockeyfan - Feb 23, 2014 at 3:30 PM

      Deep breaths, gregg, before you hyperventilate.

      You write: “… and embarrass my countries team and ultimately America in general.” It was Team USA who embarrassed themselves in their game vs. Finland. The players admitted they didn’t show up, and complained about their own lack of effort.

      I hate getting philosophical here; but, the only person or people who get embarrassed are those who embarrass themselves.

      Canada was just the better (the best) team. Babcock, other coaches, and the Canadian players remarked on their own success. They didn’t bash other players or teams, including Team USA. They let their play do the talking.

      I’m an American. I’m not embarrassed.

      • gregg8776 - Feb 23, 2014 at 4:11 PM


        Thank you for your well reasoned response.

        Perhaps the hockey world is better off without me because I just can’t rationalize paying foreign players who then compete against the Americans. Maybe my sense of national pride is misplaced but in my opinion this situation reeks of aiding and abetting the enemy.

        Think about this. If all of the Canadians, Swedes, Finns, etc HAD to play in their home country, could they? Would there be enough hockey teams and revenue to go around to pay for their salaries? I suspect not…that’s why they come here but that’s a moot point.

        I don’t have the same mind set as you do but that’s OK. You seem to have the pulse of the hockey world because no one else is upset that the Americans are funding a large portion of the world’s best hockey players.

        Like I said earlier, I have had enough of this debacle and am going to exercise the only option available to me.

        I wish you a good day.

      • patthehockeyfan - Feb 23, 2014 at 6:20 PM

        You sound like a decent guy, gregg, with a lot of love for your/our country.

        I understand your remarks. I ask you, though, to consider that while hockey players from other countries come here to play, they are hired and paid by the U.S. and Canadian owners of the teams (and, as an extension, by the fans). Of course they wouldn’t be able to make the same money playing for a professional team in their own countries. Very few might; but, certainly not all.

        And, you’re right. I am not “upset that the Americans are funding a large portion of the world’s best hockey players.” Selfishly speaking, I am glad to see the talent.

        In these Olympic games, NHL players for the Czech Republic played against Sweden, Russia faced Finland, and so on. It’s a once-every-four-years tournament pitting country against country. Teammates faced teammates. They see it merely as a sport, I believe, without personal animosity towards each other. The next day, they’ll don the same uniform and play together on the same team. Yes, a U.S. team.

        It’s a two-way street. They’re the best in the world, and we in the U.S. are fortunate to witness their greatness. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

        I can’t think of anything else to say except that it’s a shame you’re turning away from the sport. You’ll be missed.

      • dueman - Feb 24, 2014 at 3:37 AM

        He won’t be missed at all. I’m quite surprised that you (Patthehockeyfan) took the time to be so nice and try to pretend that gregg is being reasonable when he is obviously very deluded. Canada supports their teams quite well. In fact, with profit sharing, Canadian teams are actually helping to support some American teams. None of this matters though, because all that is really happening here is that gregg is just being a big whinny baby because his team didn’t win! If the guy is going to quit being a fan over this, then he was never really a fan in the first place….adios gregg!

      • patthehockeyfan - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:52 AM


        I believe that gregg sees international hockey players employed in the U.S., and then playing against the U.S.

        While I don’t see things his way, he has a right to his opinion. I wasn’t disagreeing with him; nor, was I ‘pretending’ that he is reasonable. He and I simply have a different way of looking at this matter.

        Vive la’ difference!

      • beergold - Feb 24, 2014 at 3:58 PM


        You are in fact entitled to your opinion so glad you vented. Ignore the Dooman… he is one of the few Canadian’s that comment here that DON’T believe ANYONE but him deseves to have an opinion expressed or heard.

        He’s the guy that sits in the corner stall at the bar every Friday night….alone! Too many butt kickins for being a mouthy knowitall! The internet allows him to spew without the smack in the mouth that he obviously has had quite a few of!

    • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 3:45 PM

      A little sensitive there gregg. Did you forget to take your meds? Relax! It’s just a game. Canada will supply USA with crude oil from tar sands in Alberta thus reducing your dependency on oil from middle east. Does that make you feel better? You must have had a heart attack when the Blue Jays won the World Series. BTW, why do they call it the world series if the games are played only in North America? Hmmm!

    • ehunt29 - Feb 23, 2014 at 6:37 PM

      Gregg: first off I don’t know what Babcock said to set you off. Second the NBA and MLB has lots of guys from overseas or latin countries, are they on your ____ list too. Third, in Canada they train half the world’s junior hockey players who eventually take the jobs of the Canadians and Americans trying to make the NHL. The Olympics is one place where you can actually cheer on your country. The same is not true in professional sports.

    • slysipops - Feb 23, 2014 at 7:33 PM

      gregg,as said it happens in most sports in the USA .i remeber a time when baseball was dominated by kids from the southern states.. they played ball most of the year with the weather as it is… now it is like a spanish sport…why did kids from the south give up on playing ? basketball was dominated by black kids from all over the states but mostly the north… now you have players from CHINA, JAPAN,RUSSIA etc…why ?? it’s the same in movie land also …look at all the non-AMERICANS starring in films now compared to years ago…………IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BUCK ! movie-goers like the accents and sport team owners sign whoever draws the ticket buyers…ala fans ! real fans or whatever …they buy the tickets and the sponsors products ….again the buck talks! imagine how the CANADIAN folks feel about their sport being taken over by the USA ?……agian it’s all about the almighty dollar ! what if the AMERICAN fans all quit going to hockey games. i mean zero attendance, so the NHL said to hell with it we will just have a 6/8 team league based in CANADA only….and no televised games to the USA ! then what would we watch … dancing with the stars…. soaps….survivor….duck dynasty…etc. etc. ?

  9. mobil4life - Feb 23, 2014 at 3:22 PM

    Canada Sucks. No Canadian team will ever win another Stanley Cup. thanks.

    • joey4id - Feb 23, 2014 at 3:39 PM

      You suck…. Who cares? American teams win because their rosters usually include more Canadians than Americans. BTW, no American team will ever win as many cups as Montreal. I don’t really know that for sure, and who gives a hoot. And you don’t know that no Canadian team will win another SC. Go watch Nascar.

      • slysipops - Feb 23, 2014 at 7:37 PM

        for a change…..i have to fully agree with you joey !

  10. blomfeld - Feb 23, 2014 at 4:46 PM


    As a Canadian hockey fan, I hear ‘exactly’ what Gregg8776 is saying. While it’s one thing for the parasite (wealthy Canadian & Euro players) to garner riches at the expense of the host body (American paying public), it’s quite another thing for that parasite to then turn around and start ‘boasting’ about his/her actions. If the American paying public ever decided to get together and ‘boycott’ watching NHL hockey, then everyone knows that the entire league would fold faster than a cheap tent ! Therefore the bottom line is that Babcock needs to zip his trap right now, and instead start appreciating ‘who’ it is that’s making him wealthy ! … same applies to Ovechkin, Crosby and others.


  11. jake1199 - Feb 23, 2014 at 5:28 PM

    I see all these comments and laugh! Some of the comments are out of line! But that is what makes this continent so special that people can voice their opinions!

    So, as for the Olympics! Professional athletes should not be in it! The Olympics are for amateur athletes! But like the professional leagues, the Olympics is all about making money and putting that host city on the map!

    As for bashing Canadian hockey, well it is our national pasttime just like football/baseball is to America! U do not see much bashing at American athletes who represent Canadian teams plus not forget there is 20 times the population of American to Canada! Yes, it has been a while since a Canadian team has not won a Stanley cup due to the fact that the dollar had to do with it in the past plus now there is so much parity and more American teams than Canadian!

    I am not naming names who posted but if u don’t wanna spend your hard money to watch, well keep your money in your pockets or spend it at the opera or another professional sport! There will be other people who will continue to spend and continue watching great hockey and keep the owners/players happy! :)

    • blomfeld - Feb 23, 2014 at 6:09 PM


      “plus not forget there is 20 times the population of American to Canada” …

      Try ’10 x times’ pal, as Canada’s population is approximately 35 mil vs the 350 mil stateside !

      • slysipops - Feb 23, 2014 at 7:41 PM

        take it easy on the guy BLOMS , he does have some good points

  12. jake1199 - Feb 23, 2014 at 7:18 PM

    Blomfeld> Did I hit a nerve? Okay got the #’s wrong off population by 10 x! But the point is correct! If you don’t think so make a point instead of just saying” You’re wrong”! State your case!

    • blomfeld - Feb 23, 2014 at 7:36 PM

      *** over the Pacific Ocean on the approach to LAX in heavy fog ***

      AA Flight 645: Tower, please confirm our distance to runway Bravo 6, over ?

      LAX Tower: AA Flight 645, you’re probably still about 10 or 20 miles or so out, over ?

      AA Flight 645: Thank you Tower … that’s probably good enough eh ?


      I’m just teasing you friend, even though I do have an ‘aversion’ for statistical inaccuracy ! :)

  13. slysipops - Feb 23, 2014 at 7:51 PM

    look first off i am a died in the wool BLACKHAWK fan…so BABCOCK is the bench boss of a big rival team. that being said …i like the guy ! i never found him brash or whatever. so what did he say that was soooo offensive? was he supposed to thank the other teams for letting CANADA win …EY ? the CANADIANS played as they had to to be victors….. the USA and others did not or could not compete…who’s fault was it ?

  14. scottmwilk - Feb 23, 2014 at 7:56 PM

    Comments here are hilarious… gregg and blomfeld, cry yourself to sleep and have another crack at it in Korea, we’ll see you there. As for these “wealthy Canadian and European parasites”…. I’m sure Chicago fans would much rather have some American talentless chumps fronting their organisation than Toews, Sharp and Keith… never mind the other Olympians who weren’t Americans or Crawford who could have played for us as well. Pittsburgh would probably much rather give back that Stanley Cup than have those ‘parasites’ Crosby and Kunitz, like wise in Anaheim with Perry and Getzlaf, or Boston with Bergeron, Doughty and Carter in LA, the list goes on.
    Those guys love the cities they play for, just like as a Leafs fan I’m proud to watch Kessel and JVR pull on the blue and white Maple Leaf. Right up until the Bronze medal game the US team played a hell of a tournament, understandably disheartened after the semi-final the collapse is somewhat understandable, but that semi final was one of the best games of the tournament where they were beat fairly by the better team, and they should be proud of that effort.

    The Olympics is the only forum where we get to watch the best in the world represent their country, Olympic hockey would be a joke without NHL and KHL talent, I hope it continues for a long time, see you in 2018.

    • blomfeld - Feb 23, 2014 at 10:57 PM

      Person A: I don’t think that they understand what you were trying to say ?

      Person B: yes, I believe that may unfortunately be the case ?


      Friends, allow me to put this to you as clearly and succinctly as possible. Our beloved game of hockey is being ‘coached’ to death by people like Babcock and I reject that ! What we just saw transpire in Sochi was possibly the most ‘boring, suffocating and contrived’ hockey tournament ever held at the professional level anywhere ! And it’s truly a shame that this is what it’s now coming to … some ‘boring & calculated’ chess match where ‘spontaneity, fun and possibility’ are completely snuffed out by defensive ‘systems’ and Orwellian thought control. Can you imagine greats like Orr, Lafleur or Gretzky being told to ‘stay inside the box’ by some ‘systems’ freak like Babcock, instead of ‘free-wheeling’ to their hearts content and giving us some of our most cherished hockey memories in the process ? In fact, I’ll bet that even Crosby’s supporters didn’t like the way their hero was muzzled in Sochi by Babcock’s ‘stifling’ defensive systems … what did Crosby get, 1 x goal or something ?

      The bottom line is that ‘we’ the paying fans want color, excitement, enterprise and the chance to witness greatness ! … not some dull, predictable, staid, defensive ‘1-0’ chess match. And don’t even get me started on all this pansy, new age, highway ‘billboard-sized’ goalie equipment !

      GO FUN !!

      GO CREATIVITY !!!!!


      • imgoingtowichita - Feb 24, 2014 at 11:29 AM

        Have you watched one of your beloved Kings games? Sutter preaches defence first.
        He coached to not give up the red line or blue line. By doing that you limit the speed and opportunity in which a team can generate good quality scoring and secondary scoring chances. Nothing earth shattering about the process. His team was successful because he had the talent and buy-in to accomplish the plan. When Canada didn’t have possession they worked as a 5-man unit to get it back asap.
        Don’t get me wrong, I like mistakes, mistakes lead to scoring chances and either goals or great saves = entertainment. As a hockey fan his plan was surgically performed by elite level talent against the worlds best. Hats off to coach Babcock for achieving the only result that would allow him to continue his travels across the 49th unabated.

  15. scottmwilk - Feb 23, 2014 at 11:36 PM

    I see what your saying, I suppose I can see it both ways, personally I loved the tournament (though you can certainly say I say that with some bias as a Canadian), the Canadians defensive domination was awesome to watch as I think there’s something to be said for simply being as ruthlessly efficient as possible like they were.

    That being said I think you’re right it probably doesn’t do any favours for the game in terms of growth and new fans without the flash that you see in the NHL, or the nail-biting finish to the women’s tournament. As an example, my two Australian house mates who stayed up to watch the game with me in Melbourne, while excited were a bit disappointed when I pointed out they were in for most likely a low scoring game.

    To me the Olympics are about the best of the best, and I think that’s what Babcock and Yzerman put together, but maybe there should be a forum for the other side of that coin in terms of individual brilliance?

    It wasn’t completely without the highlight reel, Crosby’s breakaway goal was pretty classic, even if it didn’t come until there was less than 30 minutes to go in the tournament. But should the likes of Keith, Weber, Doughty and the rest of the D corps play looser than they’re capable of to make way for flashy highlight reel plays?

  16. patshal - Feb 24, 2014 at 6:37 AM

    Canada did not deserve to win that. With a team as good as them and then they are beating horrible teams by 1. One of the best against one of the worst (Canada vs. Latvia) should not be a 1 goal game. They also went into shootouts a lot like against Finland.

    • faceoff77 - Feb 24, 2014 at 9:48 AM

      Did you watch any of the games? Canada did not have one shootout. Also, yes they only scored 2 goals against Latvia, it was a dominant performance.

  17. jake1199 - Feb 24, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    Patshal> Who should have won? Slovenia! LOL! Come on man! Canada was the best team in the whole tournament and had the best GAA against in Olympics history! Plus the teams that scored against us was just Latvia and Norway! All the power nations with tons of NHL players didn’t score! So that proves to you it was no cake walk for the Canadian boys! Plus an underachievement especially with today’s game!

  18. slysipops - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:16 PM

    want a REAL olympics ? go back to amatuers only….including coaches . don’t want low scoring games… let’s go with empty nets !

  19. nicofthenorthstar - Feb 24, 2014 at 9:50 PM

    Best coach in NHL history?

  20. joewilliesshnoz - Feb 25, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    Nice job, coach. I hope that Bylsma has the tapes, then maybe the Pens can finish.

  21. cbarks85 - Feb 26, 2014 at 5:50 PM

    Dear Coach Mike:

    We’re very happy that you were able to win gold again at the Olympics with an overly stacked Canadian hockey club. However, now that we are back to business as usual it has now been 6 years since you’ve been able to return Lord Stanley’s Cup to its rightful owner in Hockeytown, USA. Some here in Detroit might say that all we need to do is ‘make the playoffs’ each year but not good enough for me. I want the cup back! The bottom line here is that your true adversity is and has been tested in Detroit these past few seasons and year after year seems to slowly decline. We can blame injuries all we want but its like you said- “so what, win a game”.


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