Mike Babcock: “You can’t have the wife I have, the kids I have, and the family I have without being a good human being”

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Former Leafs head coach Mike Babcock joined the Rod Pederson Show to discuss his decision to join the University of Saskatchewan hockey program and respond to the reports about his personal conduct as a coach in Toronto and Detroit.


The last year and a half — what has it been like for you? You have taken some shots.

Babcock: The last year and a half for my wife and myself has been spectacular. What I mean by that: I was a head coach for 34 years. I kept saying to my buddies, “We’ll do that when I get fired.” Besides in Moose Jaw, I never got fired. I never got a chance to do that.

When I got fired in Toronto, we went all in on the entertainment. Covid got involved in the world.  As terrible as it has been, when you have older kids with jobs and they work with Zoom, you spend way more time with them. That part has been unbelievable.

I am not a big media guy in terms of following what is going on. You know if you are getting whacked or not. You also know in today’s world, the way it is, even with the people who really value you, it is hard for them to step up because they are going to get whacked, too.

I know who I am. I know what I have done. Some of this stuff doesn’t pass the smell test at all. What I mean with that is just common sense. When you look at my career, I have always been hired by people who knew me. It is not like we had a Zoom meeting.

Bryan Murray, who hired me to be the coach in Anaheim, we worked together for two years. He knew everything about Mike Babcock. When I went to Detroit, I worked with Jim Nill and Ken Holland. We had shared a farm team together. They knew everything about me. They knew me for four years. I worked with them for 10 years.

Steve Yzerman played for me. He hired me to coach two Olympic teams. He worked with me for four years in the office there. Shanny hired me to coach… Something doesn’t add up.

The bottom line is: Have you ever said anything to your wife you’d like to get back? You know when you are reaching out to try to get things back? My oldest girl would say to you, “Dad, it is not what you say. It is your tone.” We have all made mistakes in our life. You have to own everything you have done wrong.

I also think your intention is so important. You can’t have the wife I have, the kids I have, and the family I have without being a good human being. I don’t have any problem with that whatsoever.

I always said, when I went to Toronto, I got half my salary coaching the team and half of my salary for getting whacked. It is all part of what it is.

The bottom line is, I am excited. I am having a great life. This gives me a chance to go back to Saskatchewan. The people of Saskatchewan helped me on my way and were there for me all time. It is important for me to have the opportunity to go back. I am pumped about this.

It is going to be great for my family. I am excited about coaching college hockey. I love Saskatchewan.

… People in hockey when I got fired said, “Hey Babs, don’t say anything.” To be honest with you, I went skiing and hunting. After a while, you get tired of hearing some of the things. I think it is important that you get to say your piece. None of us are perfect. We are all trying to get better. You embrace lifelong learning. That will be another great thing about going back to the school. You try to get better. That is all you can do.

Family is so important. My in-laws, I can’t wait to be around them there. With the U of S program, I can’t wait to be involved.

When you were fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs, was it shocking to you?

Babcock: No, it wasn’t shocking to me. I knew when Lou left I was getting fired. In your own mind, though, that’s not how you think. You just keep on keeping on. The bottom line: I really believe it’s important every General Manager has their coach — their guy. That wasn’t me. I have no problem with that whatsoever.

Am I jealous at times? Matthews has become a man. Marner has become a man. Rielly. That is the process you are involved in. I am proud of the fact that we went there, we had no players, we ended up with all of these guys, and we still have the franchise record for most points. We didn’t get it done at playoff time, but in saying that, we had Tampa and Boston and Washington. Now, the divisions are a little bit different.

No one wants to get fired. This has been a really good year and a half for Mike Babcock. Larry Tanenbaum has treated me like a million dollars. He has been spectacular. It has been good.