The Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons spoke to coaches (both assistants and head coaches) who worked with Mike Babcock and executives who know Babcock well to determine “What makes Mike Babcock tick?” and part of the article involves his tenure with the Red Wings:
“Scotty Bowman was different than Mike and Al (Arbour) was different than Scotty,” said Devellano. “I worked with all three. They’re all different, very effective, very affected, very driven. Mike can be like a race car driver, he only knows one speed and he keeps his foot on the gas all the time. He’s like that so he expects everyone else to be like that. I don’t think he cares whether the players like him or not. He cares about results. Scotty was a lot like that. He didn’t care what you thought of him. Mike has some of that in him.”
In Detroit, where Babcock made his National Hockey League reputation, he became known as a demanding almost obsessive coach, not only to his players but to the Red Wings front office. At times it was thought he tried to coach, play and manage the team all at the same time. He was forever asking the front office for players, demanding change or trades.
“He can be very disrespectful of coaches, players, general managers,” said an NHL executive, who didn’t want to be identified. “He’s not asking for things sometimes, he’s demanding them. He tries to run the team. He’s not easy to work with.”
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland disagrees. Sort of. He hired Babcock to coach the Wings and the two worked together and became close friends in their 10 years in Detroit . He knows what Babcock is, how good he is at his job, how much of a pain in the butt he can be.
“He’s a great coach,” said Holland. “In life, experience is a good thing. We all get excited about youth. But in the coaching fraternity, experience is very, very valuable. He went from Lethbridge to Moose Jaw to Spokane to the Memorial Cup to World Junior to the American Hockey League. He didn’t get here by accident.
“And he’s consistent. No matter what time you get up on a road trip, you’re going to meet with him at 7 in the morning and we’ll go over the tape from the night before and talk about what our plan is for the next day. It’s relentless, it’s day after day after day and he does it because he believes in it. He does it because he believes in routine and that’s how he lives his life.”