Mike Babcock, a 1986 graduate of McGill University in Quebec, Canada, moved to Great Britain to become a player-coach with the Whitley Warriors in 1987.
In just 49 games for the Warriors, he had 45 goals and an astounding 127 assists to go along with 123 penalty minutes. And Babcock’s team finished the year two points away from winning the league title.
It was his first coaching stint, and the following year he left England to become the head coach at Red Deer College in Alberta, Canada, where he spent three years and won the Provincial Collegiate championship and coach of the year honors in 1989.
From Red Deer College, Babcock moved on to coach the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League for two years, spent the next year (1993-94) as the coach at Lethbridge College in Alberta, Canada, and then returned to the WHL to coach the Spokane Chiefs, where he spent six seasons (1995-96 through 1999-2000).
His first professional coaching job — Whitley doesn’t count — was with Anaheim’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, where Babcock spent two season (2000-02) before being named head coach of the Mighty Ducks.
After two seasons at the helm in Anaheim (2002-04), where he came within a game of winning the 2003 Stanley Cup, Babcock chose not to return to the Mighty Ducks after the 2004-05 NHL lockout.
Instead, he became Red Wings coach in July 2005 and has been in Detroit ever since.
How much longer Babcock stays here is a question that’s been talked about a lot lately because the upcoming season is the final one on his current contract.
He’s roamed Europe, Canada and the United States as a head coach — from Whitley to Detroit — and his teams at each stop have been extremely successful. As a result, his reputation has also blossomed.
Babcock has worked his tail off to be where he is today — on the cusp of being a coveted free agent in 2015.
If I were Babcock, I wouldn’t sign an extension with the Wings right now. He owes it to himself and his family to explore every option that comes his way before he signs anything.
Babcock’s next deal is a culmination of a lifetime of hard work, and he’s about to be paid back for a nomadic coaching lifestyle that’s seen him constantly uproot himself and his family.
Over the last 27 years, Babcock has lived in England, several Canadian provinces and four U.S. states.
His ship is about to come in, and he’ll dictate his next — and, in all likelihood, his final — NHL coaching destination.
That’s not to say that Babcock is signed, sealed and delivered out of Detroit. He likes it here and has a good working relationship with Wings GM Ken Holland. And perhaps last season’s forced youth movement has rejuvenated his desire to stay in Detroit.
"I am not overly concerned because of my relationship with Mike Babcock," Holland told me about Babcock’s contract situation. "I’m the manager and he’s the coach, but I would say he’s also a friend. We work well together. We have a great relationship.
"It will get done when it gets done. We’ll sit down in September and hopefully find a solution. And if not, Mike and I will have an open, great relationship, and we’ll continue to talk about it as we go along. I’m confident we’ll find a solution to keep Mike."
Unfortunately for the Wings, it’s not their decision. They want Babcock back, but a lot of NHL teams will line up to give their sales pitch.
Who knows? Maybe Babcock’s nomadic spirit is restless once again.
If we’ve learned anything about Babcock’s coaching career, he isn’t afraid to make a move.