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Babcock excited to remain in Hockeytown

Three-year deal sits well with Stanley Cup-winning coach

Wednesday, 06.11.2008 / 1:33 PM / News
By Lindsey Ungar  - DetroitRedWings.com Special Writer
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Babcock excited to remain in Hockeytown
DETROIT — The Red Wings signed coach Mike Babcock to a three-year contract extension on Wednesday, a week after winning the Stanley Cup. Terms were not disclosed, but the deal was reported to be worth over $1 million per season.

Babcock didn’t really have a choice in the matter.

“For me, there was no negotiation — my family had told me they weren’t leaving and that if I was going to go I was going alone,” Babcock joked. “So that gave me a whole lot less power.”

The tenure allows the oldest of his three children, daughter Allie, to graduate high school in metro Detroit. His family has traversed North America, with stops including Saskatchewan, Washington, California and now Michigan. The new deal keeps Babcock in Detroit for six years.

Holland said they shook hands on a deal prior to the start of the playoffs, but hadn’t worked out the details. They didn’t want a mid-playoffs announcement, either.

“We talked about it all year long,” Babcock said. “You knew it was just going to work out, it was just a matter of getting it so we were both comfortable.”

Babcock, 45, was named head coach of the Wings in July 2005. With the Stanley Cup and a new contract in hand, all was rosy on Wednesday. But when asked about the summer of 2005, about what needed to change after two early-round playoff exits in a town used to seeing hockey into June, Holland and Babcock looked at each other and chuckled.

“Kenny and I talked lots about this,” Babcock said.

Holland added, “How long do you got?”

After watching tape, the two even contemplated changing the Wings’ game from a puck-possession style to a more chip-and-chase style. The team’s profile was changing too — in July 2006, long-time captain Steve Yzerman retired and veteran scorer Brendan Shanahan signed with the New York Rangers.

It was a rebuilding time, both on and off the ice. But Babcock coached the team to the top of the standings, winning 50-plus games each season — an NHL coaching record — and two Presidents’ trophies. He’s compiled a regular-season record of 162-56-28 over the three-year span.

Detroit still kept the puck — under Babcock, the Wings have ranked in the top three in goals-against average. But Holland also credited Babcock with the Wings’ improved net-front presence — Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen and Dan Cleary in particular — and increased battle in the corners.

Babcock had his eye on the job long before 2005 — he told Holland that he would love to coach the Wings as early as his days with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the AHL, a Red Wings affiliate during Babcock’s reign from 2000-02. But Holland assured him that his time would come.

“I said some point in time, down the road, if you build relationships, who knows what the future’s going to bring,” Holland said. “Some point down the road, get into the NHL, get established, maybe 10 years, 15 years from now (you can coach the Wings).”

It didn’t take that long — Babcock declined a one-year contract extension with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 2005 and signed with the Wings.

“I think he’s one of the best coaches in the league — if not the best,” Holland said.

Holland hinted that Babcock wanted a longer deal, but wouldn’t budge on the three years Holland has left on his own contract with the Wings.

Babcock also gave a nod to the collective Red Wings family — the fans — as a reason that he wanted to stay here.

“The parade was a great example to me, being a reminder of the passion the fans have here,” Babcock said. “Pro sport, there’s no pro sport without the fans, and as a coach, to know you have that kind of support, and that kind of people that care, with the kind of coverage we have here, I think that the people of Detroit and the state of Michigan should be real proud of themselves and real proud of the Red Wings.”

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