It’s an exciting week for Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock as he celebrates a first over-all draft pick for the team and a personal honour from the University of Saskatchewan.
Babcock said he never watched the NHL draft lottery before Saturday night, because he never had to worry about it.
Babcock joined the Leafs after leaving a perpetual playoff contender: The Detroit Red Wings. Since high draft picks only go to the teams that miss the post-season, he never found a need to watch it.
This year as the coach of the Leafs, with a chance at first over-all, he was riveted.
“When we got number one I was emotional to say the least. This has the chance to have a huge impact on our franchise. A franchise that hasn’t had its rightful place in the league as an original six team in a long time and we plan on restoring that,” Babcock said.
According to Babcock, a city and franchise that has the resources that Toronto does has no reason not to be at the top of the league, but admits the current team is not quite there yet.
Still, Babcock said not to expect a team in the bottom of the league for very long, adding all the teams enjoying success right now had growing pains, and he wants to create a franchise that will go on a “10 year run.”
“We’re set up here, if we want, to get a real high end centre,” he said about the draft, without hinting who exactly the Leafs will take with its first overall pick.
Babcock expects the team to be competitive two to three years from now, but won’t hazard a guess on when Leafs fans will celebrate a Stanley Cup win.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to take; I just know we’re going to get it done,” he vowed.
Thrilled to be receiving honorary doctorate from U of S
Babcock spent a year wandering the halls of the University of Saskatchewan as a student, but the Saskatoon-raised NHL coach will now get to add a U of S degree to his wall.
The university announced Tuesday that Babcock will get a Doctor of Laws for outstanding achievement and exceptional service to the community.
“I’m thrilled for the honour,” Babcock told Green Zone host Jamie Nye Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s a great school, it’s had a huge impact on Saskatchewan. I enjoyed my time there,” he added.
Babcock played with the Huskies hockey team, before transferring to McGill to play and complete his bachelor’s degree.
Community service has always been a priority for Babcock. He is involved with a number of charities including the one he created call ‘The Neural Health Project’. He said he stresses the importance of community involvement and charity work to his players.
“I think giving back is one of the opportunities you have when you have notoriety in your job, like people in the National Hockey League [do],” Babcock said, adding with that notoriety comes a responsibility to show leadership and give back.
Babcock joins other notable athletes such as NHL legend Gordie Howe and former Canadian Olympians Diane Jones-Konihowski and Catriona Le May Doan as Saskatchewan sports stars to earn honorary degrees from the U of S.
He’ll receive the award at the school’s spring convocation on June 2.