(Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press - image credit)
The University of Saskatchewan Huskies have brought on former Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock as the new head coach of the university's men's hockey team.
Babcock, who has won a Stanley Cup and two Olympic gold medals as a coach, was fired by the Leafs in 2019.
The University of Saskatchewan announced Saturday the Saskatoon native will lead the Huskies on a full-time volunteer basis for the next two seasons, officially starting in May.
Babcock, who played one season at the University of Saskatchewan as a student in 1981-82, will replace Dave Adolph, who is retiring after 27 years coaching the team.
"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," Babcock said in a statement.
"This is a special place for me, and I look forward to having the chance to help develop these young men."
Babcock played one season at the University of Saskatchewan as a student.
Huskies chief athletics officer Dave Hardy called it "an exciting and historic day for Huskie Athletics."
"We are thrilled that Mike wants to come back home to lead our men's hockey program," Hardy said in Saturday's statement.
"We are extremely fortunate that the timing lined up perfectly to create this opportunity. Mike's track record of success speaks for itself, and he will be a great addition to Huskie Athletics, to the men's hockey program, and to the local hockey community."
Babcock spent 10 season as coach of the NHL's Detroit Red Wings, winning the Stanley Cup championship with the team in 2008. He won back-to-back Olympic gold medals with Team Canada in 2010 and 2014, before going on to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs, starting with the 2015-16 season.
Allegations of toxic treatment
The Leafs fired Babcock in November 2019, after a six-game losing streak. Players came forward the following month with allegations of toxic player treatment.
In 2019, Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner told the Toronto Sun that during his rookie season in 2016-17, Babcock made him list his teammates in order of how hard they worked, before revealing the list to players who Marner had ranked at the bottom.
Babcock has since said he was wrong to do so and issued an apology.
Red Wings defenceman Chris Chelios said in 2019 that he remembered Babcock "verbally assaulting" teammate Johan Franzen.
Franzen said Babcock would say "horrible things" to teammates and that he was "terrified of being at the rink" after the first time Babcock berated him.
Hardy said the Huskies were aware of the reports, and had several discussions about them with Babcock during the selection process.
"As a university and as an athletic department, we are committed to fostering healthy work and learning environments for all students, staff and faculty," Hardy said.
He wouldn't go into specifics about confidential discussions, but said Babcock understands and supports the athletics program's commitment to creating positive work and learning environments.
Hardy said he expects Babcock's new role with the team to be well-received.
"The once-in-a-lifetime chance to work with and be coached by one of the greatest coaches in hockey history is an opportunity that I don't think any of them ever expected," he said.
"I think our student athletes and our hockey staff will be incredibly excited about what lies ahead for the team."