Mike Babcock named coach of University of Saskatchewan men's hockey team

Former Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock. (Aaron Lynett/CP)

Former Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock is returning to his Canadian university roots by joining the University of Saskatchewan Huskies as the team's next head coach.

This is Babcock's first head coaching job since he was fired by the Maple Leafs in November 2019. He will officially take over the role in May, when current head coach Dave Adolph retires after 27 years with the program. He will coach the Huskies on a volunteer basis for the next two seasons.

Babcock, who grew up in Saskatoon, returns to the team he played one season for back in 1981-82 and has previous coaching experience at the U Sports level with the University of Lethbridge.

"I am excited to work with Huskie athletes, back in my hometown, at the university where I had the opportunity to play under legendary coach Dave King," said Babcock in a statement. "This is a special place for me, and I look forward to having the chance to help develop these young men.

"Saskatchewan has provided me many opportunities in my life and my career, and I am truly excited about the opportunity to give back."

Babcock is one of the most decorated NHL coaches of the 21st century with a Stanley Cup win and two Olympic gold medals on his resume.

While his teams have had success on the ice, some of Babcock's coaching tactics have come under fire in the time since he was fired by the Maple Leafs, with allegations of verbal abuse surfacing. One incident, first reported by Postmedia's Terry Koshan, involved Babcock asking then Maple Leafs rookie Mitch Marner to rank his teammates by their work ethic then revealing the list to some of those players.

"...there’s no question that it was all on me,” Babcock said of the incident in a recent interview with The Athletic. “Not on Mitch. It was all on me. I made a mistake. My fault."

Since parting ways with the Maple Leafs, Babcock has remained mostly out of the public eye. Last fall, he interviewed for the head coaching position with the Washington Capitals but lost out to Peter Laviolette. This season, he has taken a role with NBC Sports as an in-studio analyst for NHL broadcasts.

The 2020-21 U Sports sports calendar was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the team did win the Canada West championship in 2019-20 to secure a spot in the U Sports national championship tournament for the eighth time in nine seasons.

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