Mike Babcock has long had a reputation of not being good at working with young players because he lacks the patience necessary to develop talent as part of a long-term plan. It was a major question mark from the time the Toronto Maple Leafs hired the two-time Olympic gold medal-winning coach, and Babcock’s failure in that job only made him look worse.
There was the infamous list that Babcock had Mitch Marner make, ranking his teammates by work ethic and then sharing that list to the very same players on it. In the wake of Babcock’s firing in Toronto, more horror stories emerged from his years in Detroit, from emotional and verbal abuse of Johan Franzen to Carlo Colaiacovo recounting how veteran Red Wings constantly tried to mutiny against Babcock the way he “uses fear and a sense of being uncomfortable as … a strategy with his players.”
Hockey being the haven of cronyism that it is, there was always going to be another landing spot behind a bench for Babcock, who instead of heading off into infamy wound up with a cushy gig on television this season.
But did anyone think that it would be with a college team?
Well, Babcock is the new coach at the University of Saskatchewan.
That’s certainly a choice for the Huskies.
Now, to be sure, there will be plenty of parents who have no trouble at all sending their kids to play for Babcock, to be part of a culture in which the thought process is that young people need to be broken down in order to be built back up, to value the concept of learning from a champion over the risks to well-being. Hockey culture being a cesspool doesn’t just start at the professional level, after all, but with an entire set of out-of-order priorities that lead to things like playing hockey on a broken leg being seen as heroic rather than intensely stupid.
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Babcock getting a job with a college hockey program also falls under the category of intensely stupid. The only question is whether it ends in scandal in Saskatchewan, or if Babcock uses the Huskies as a launchpad to get back into the NHL, leaving who knows how many young players’ mental health shattered in his wake.