There is very little that differentiates teams when the world’s greatest hockey players gather on a global stage to compete for the most sought after prize in their sport. It can easily be argued that the Canadians did not ice the strongest squad in the Olympic tournament. The Russians boasted the most offensive firepower and the Americans had a well-rounded lineup with a lot to prove after losing in the gold medal game four years ago. Sweden and Finland are perennially strong when competing internationally. This was proven by Sweden’s gold medal performance at the Torino Olympics in 2006. So with so much parity in the Olympic hockey tournament, why did Canada fare so well in 2010 and 2014? The answer is simple, coaching.
Hockey Canada Executive Director Steve Yzerman was forced to make many difficult decisions regarding roster choices for the 2010 and 2014 Olympic squads. The most crucial decision he made was choosing the right coach to lead Canada’s superstar team. In choosing Mike Babcock as head coach, Yzerman paved the road to success by handing the reigns of team Canada to a qualified coach with a winning history. Babcock’s leadership style has been defined by the thorough preparation of his teams, both physically and mentally.
Babcock’s winning ways started long before he was chosen to be behind the bench as team Canada’s Olympic coach. His path began as a varsity hockey player at McGill University where he earned a degree in Education followed by graduate studies in Sport Psychology. From there, Babcock coached Red Deer College to the provincial championship. This was the first in a string of many championships earned at various levels of the sport. A national title at the University of Lethbridge, a gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championships, a Stanley cup, and two Olympic Gold medals later, Mike Babcock has become one of the most decorated coaches in the history of the sport of hockey.
His continued success can be attributed to his attention to detail, focus, ability to get the most out of his players, and dedication to constant improvement. His commitment to his alma mater has earned him the additional recognition of an honorary law degree from McGill University.
The Olympics encompass all the ingredients for emotional swings ranging from extreme highs to painful lows. Mike Babcock has experienced both the thrill of victory and agony of defeat at all levels of the sport and his ability to learn from these situations was exemplified in team Canada’s methodical approach to their gold medal victory at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Even though there may have been stronger teams in the tournament, Canada’s ability to gel and rally around on one team goal proved to be the difference.