While the sun was shining in Lake Tahoe and forcing the longest first intermission in NHL history on Saturday afternoon, the U of Saskatchewan’s athletic department was dropping a bombshell.
It wasn’t long after Darren Dreger of TSN tweeted that Mike Babcock’s hiring as the U of Saskatchewan’s men’s hockey coach would be announced “next week” when the school made it official.
Dave Hardy, the Huskies’ chief athletics officer, said in a news release that the 57-year-old Babock, who is from Saskatoon, “will lead the Huskies on a full-time volunteer basis for the next two seasons.”
Dreger later tweeted that Babcock “will coach one season, but is heavily involved in hiring an assistant coach to work with him next season before taking over the program the following year.”
Earlier in the week, Hardy told Darren Zary of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix that he had heard from “less than 100 and more than 50” people interested in the vacancy. Hardy said that he hoped to hire someone before April 1.
“It’s a real challenge for our search committee to narrow that down but we’ll do that sort of collaboratively over the next three or four weeks,” Hardy told Zary. “We’ll have a very qualified coach by March 31.”
Babcock, who is to move into his new position in May, takes over from Dave Adolph, the team’s 27-year head coach who announced his retirement on Dec. 7 and will leave on May 1.
Babcock, a defenceman, played one season (1981-82) with the Huskies and one with the WHL’s Kelowna Wings before spending three seasons at McGill U in Montreal. He later coached at Red Deer College (1988-91) and with the U of Lethbridge Pronghorns (1993-94), winning a national title there. He also coached in the WHL for eight seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors (1991-93) and Spokane Chiefs (1994-2000). . . . As an NHL coach, he won a Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings (2007-08) and two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada (2010, 2014).
This season, he has been helping out as a volunteer senior advisor with the U of Vermont Catamounts, and he recently began working with NBC Sports as an NHL analyst.
Babcock was fired as head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 20, 2019. He was in his fifth season there. When he was dumped, what was an eight-year, US$50-million contract had almost three years left on it. At the time, Pierre LeBrun of TSN reported that Babcock’s contract with Toronto “had a $3M signing bonus then $5.875M salary every year evenly through 2022-23.”
There since have been allegations that he verbally abused players, in particular Mitch Marner with the Maple Leafs and Johan Franzen in Detroit.
The 15-team AJHL, which hasn’t played since Nov. 21, announced Friday that it has received government approval to resume its season. Specific dates apparently haven’t yet been set, but the league said training camps are to open “at the start of March” with games to begin at some point after that. If all goes well, games will be played on weekends through the end of May. . . . The news release didn’t mention a format but there have been reports that teams play be placed in three-game cohorts and play 24 games. . . . The league says that “players, coaches and support staff are currently self-isolating in preparation” for training camps. Players will be free to move on to camps after two negative tests. After that, a positive test will sideline a team for at least 14 days. . . . At this point, there won’t be any fans allowed to attend games. . . . The last line of the AJHL news release reads: “An update league schedule and a list of participating teams will be announced shortly.” By Saturday afternoon there was speculation that as many as three teams may opt out of the resumption of play. . . . Before suspending play in November, the AJHL had experienced positive tests on at least five teams — the Canmore Eagles, Calgary Canucks, Drumheller Dragons, Olds Grizzlies and Whitecourt Wolverines.
The day before the AJHL announced that it was going to get in some games in the next while, the BCHL revealed that “multiple members” of the Prince George Spruce Kings have tested positive. . . . “At this point,” the BCHL news release reads, “the affected team members and all close contacts have been placed in a 14-day quarantine and anyone showing symptoms will be tested as soon as possible.” . . . The BCHL closed off with: “For the privacy of the people affected, we will have no further comment at this time.” . . . Brendan Pawliw of myprincegeorgenow.com reported that “several members” of the team had tested positive and that “all other billet families, team personnel and staff have been instructed to self-monitor for symptoms and to arrange for a test if symptoms arise.” . . . Pawliw also reported that “general manager Mike Hawes told MyPGNow.com he will not be commenting further on the issue.” . . . The Prince George Citizen reported that “general manager Mike Hawes has been told by the league not to reveal any other information.” . . . You may recall that Andrew Milne, the general manager and head coach of the Canmore Eagles, was hit with a 15-game suspension and fined $1,000 for talking to the media in December after his team was hit by an outbreak.
The Calgary Hitmen have cleared the first hurdle and now are OK to begin on-ice workouts. The Hitmen didn’t get back any positives from 59 tests from Feb. 13 through Friday as they set up shop at the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex on Tsuut’ina National near Calgary. . . .
Meanwhile, Regan Bartel, the radio voice of the Kelowna Rockets, reported that Adrian Dix, B.C.’s health minister, said Friday that the WHL’s 65-page return-to-play proposal “has been received and (is) being reviewed by the provincial health office. We are working on the plan and we will be responding the plan soon.” The plan apparently was received on Feb. 2, although Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said earlier in the week that officials ““haven’t received an updated proposal in the last few weeks.”
Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle writes some truth:
“Women’s tennis reached its contemporary pinnacle when Serena Williams met Naomi Osaka in the Australian Open semifinals, and they played it like champions: quietly and with dignity, save those moments of exultation. Somehow, the WTA’s godawful noise machine grinds on with two of the top players, Simona Halep and Garbiñe Muguruza, right at the forefront. Every stroke brings a deafening shriek, as if there’s a gruesome crime in progress. As such, they leave no pleasant memories. They’re just passing through the sport.”
The Port Moody Amateur Hockey Association has cancelled all team activities after learning of four positive tests among its membership. . . . According to a statement on the PMAHA website, it became aware of single positives on Feb. 4 and Feb. 9, and two on Feb. 10. . . . It acted on Feb. 10 to pause all activities. Before this, teams were allowed to practice under certain restrictions.
The eight-school Ivy League announced Friday that it won’t be holding any spring sports in 2021. The Ivy League Council of Presidents said the decision had been made “because of ongoing public health concerns related to COVID-19.”
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