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STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS MINNESOTA VS. MIGHTY DUCKS / SERIES
REPORT | OTHER VIEWS

Babcock Learns Quickly on Job

May 16, 2003|Patrick Reusse | Minneapolis Star Tribune

Mike Babcock's coaching background had consisted of Canadian college teams, six seasons with the major junior team in Spokane, Wash., and two seasons with Cincinnati of the American Hockey League.

The media types who dabble in covering the Anaheim Mighty Ducks say that Babcock seemed intimidated when first surrounded by several reporters and multiple minicams. About all he had to offer in the early weeks of his first season were incessant cliches, the favorite of which concerned playing one game at a time.

What his bosses, players and assistants will tell you today is that Babcock has a tremendous instinct for reading people and dealing with them in a straightforward manner.

That ability to anticipate the behavior of others has led to growing savvy in handling the media, whose numbers have grown substantially as the underdog Ducks have moved toward the Stanley Cup finals.

Anaheim took a 3-0 series lead over the Wild with another shutout Wednesday. Babcock was upset by some tactics he saw from the frustrated Wild in the third period. Finally, when Jacques Lemaire put tough guy Matt Johnson on the ice, Babcock started screaming at his coaching rival.

On Thursday, Babcock put his team through a short practice at the Pond, and then came to an interview room for a quick media session.

Whack! The first question had to do with Babcock "being quite vocal to the Minnesota bench" late in Game 3. Anaheim's rookie coach was ready.

"When I woke up at 6:30 in the morning, my kids were in my bed," he said. "They told me I had inappropriate behavior and now they have to go to Catholic school and answer for their dad acting his shoe size instead of his age.

"I'm sorry about that. That won't happen again." Very smooth.

Babcock is a 40-year-old rookie coach with one exhibition game as his NHL playing experience. Lemaire, 57, won eight Stanley Cups as a player in Montreal and another as New Jersey's coach in 1995.

Babcock was asked if a young coach such as he might have used Lemaire as a "strategic role model." Certainly, Anaheim's counterattacking, defense-first style is very similar to what Lemaire brought to New Jersey, then to Minnesota.

"He's an impressive man ... what he's been able to accomplish as a player and then as a coach," Babcock said. "The thing for me that is so impressive about him is how hard he has those guys playing, how much fun he seems to have, and how much fun they seem to have."

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Patrick Reusse can be reached at preusse@startribune.com.

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