Mike Babcock says goodbye to Detroit
DETROIT – An emotional Mike Babcock said goodbye Friday morning to Detroit, a place he and his family have called home for the past 10 years.
He fought back tears as he spoke at Joe Louis Arena two days after the Toronto Maple Leafs announced they have signed him to an 8-year, $50 million deal to make him their next head coach.
"My decision to leave is my decision. My wife wanted me to make that clear -- it's not on her," he said. "My decision, totally, and it was about a new opportunity and a new challenge."
Babcock spoke about the Red Wings organization as an extension of his own family. He called his close friend Ken Holland the best general manager in the league, and mentioned he's jealous about Holland's prospects such as Dylan Larkin.
"(Larkin) is a heck of a player and I'm jealous," said Babcock.
He said he went back and forth about where to coach next about 100 times before he made his final decision.
"I just felt for me, to invigorate me, what was I going to do with the next 10 years of my life? This challenge is way different than it was in Detroit," he said. "I can't thank the people enough."
He was choked up several times throughout the half-hour press conference as he looked back on the past 10 years with the Red Wings. He believes the team's short-term future is bright, perhaps brighter than the Maple Leafs'. This move is about a change for him in his career, but it's not something he is doing on a whim.
"I think change is an exciting thing. It's scary. It's really scary," he said.
He said going to an Original Six franchise was part of his decision to choose Toronto.
"If I'm gonna leave I have to go to an Original Six franchise. I just have to," he said.
Though he's looking forward to working in what is North America's hockey Mecca, he is concerned about driving his Ford F-150 on Toronto's traffic-clogged streets.
"Maybe there's no room on the street. You can't park the thing, I don't know," he said.
He'll still keep his house in Northville so his children can continue to train in the area.
As for Detroit's next coach, Babcock definitely believes Jeff Blashill is a good candidate. After all, he hired Blashill to his first NHL coaching job. He stopped short of anointing him Detroit's next coach, at least during this talk with the media.
"Every great CEO has a good succession plan," he said.
Babcock reiterated it was the people around him that made the past 10 years the best of his life.
"It's been special. Thank you."
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