Mike Babcock is emerging from exile.
NBC, the NHL’s U.S. broadcasting partner, announced Monday that the former Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs head coach, and two-time Olympic gold medal-winning bench boss with Canada, has signed on as a studio analyst for the upcoming season.
Babcock will, in a way, take the seat from Mike Milbury, who NBC chose not to retain for this upcoming season for reasons that presumably include the sexist comment he uttered on air during the first-round series between the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals in the Toronto bubble.
For those who wish to remember, when his broadcasting partner at the time, John Forslund, was positing about the advantages to playing in the solitary confines of a bubble, Milbury agreed, saying, “(there’s) not even any women here to disrupt your concentration.’’
While one image is tarnished, Babcock will be looking to rehabilitate his with the move to television.
Babcock has been removed from the limelight entirely since he was fired 14 months ago from his high-profile post with the Maple Leafs. He was soon embroiled in controversy following his dismissal when it was revealed that in one of his first seasons in charge in Toronto, Babcock challenged then rookie Mitch Marner to list his teammates with the worst work ethic.
All we’ve really heard from Babcock since then was a response to the incident through text to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
“I was trying to focus on work ethic with Mitch, focusing on role models, ended up not being a good idea. I apologized at (the) time.”
The incident took some shine off Babcock’s resume, but it’s not likely the main reason he hasn’t accepted a coaching position since being let go in the fifth season in Toronto. Not coaching, or choosing to work in television first, will allow Babcock to continue earning the money left on his eight-year mega contract signed in Toronto in 2015.
As for how he might perform, Babcock has polish in a public speaking role, though he can toggle between succinctness and rambling, and is most certainly a little dated in his opinions and view of the game. He was always deliberate with his intentions in sessions with the media, his answers used to relay messages he wanted circulated.
It should be interesting to see what he’s got.
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