Heroes for life — Mike Babcock returns to Red Deer

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When the Canadian men’s Olympic hockey team needed a last-minute locker room pep talk going into overtime in the gold-medal game, head coach Mike Babcock first went over some strategy.

“Then I turned around and said to the guys, ‘One of you in the next six or seven minutes is going to be a hero for the rest of your life. Get on your toes and let’s go after it,’” said Babcock.

In the end, it was young star Sidney Crosby who did indeed score the winning goal against the U.S. team.

Twenty-two years after being hired as a rookie coach, Babcock returned to the Red Deer College fold on Tuesday on top of the hockey world.

In front of more than 800 people at the Capri Centre Exhibition Hall, Babcock — current head coach of the Detroit Red Wings — was the featured speaker of the seventh annual Red Deer College Kings and Queens Scholarship Breakfast.

In his address, Babcock talked about walking to every game to take in the sheer energy in the streets of Vancouver during the recent 2010 Olympics. He talked about how many players didn’t want to take their equipment off long after the game, trying to hold onto the once-in-a-lifetime moment for as long as possible.

He also discussed his time in Red Deer.

“Red Deer College is of huge significance to me in that they gave me an opportunity,” Babcock said of his three-season stint as coach of the RDC Kings men’s hockey team from 1988-90.

The 46-year-old from Saskatoon had spent the years previous playing junior and college hockey in Canada and premier division hockey in England, and was sending out resumés looking for a fresh start in coaching.

“I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going,” he said, joking that easy access to the Calgary Stampede was initially a big draw to the job. “Basically I lost my way and I ended up here.”

Babcock took the Red Deer College Kings to an Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championship and a Canadian Colleges Athletic Association silver medal. He also met his future wife Maureen in Red Deer. Eventually, Babcock left for Moose Jaw, the University of Lethbridge and a slew of other jobs before ending up in the NHL, his stated aspiration from the start.

Babcock’s stressed dreaming big. While it’s important to realize “things don’t happen overnight,” it’s also important to pursue one’s life goals with passion, he added.

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