Hockey has been described as a game of inches, but Mike Babcock is looking at it as a game of 200 feet.
Officially unveiled yesterday as head coach of the Canadian men’s hockey team for 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Babcock discussed his blueprint for the team — one that is committed without the puck and plays the full length of the rink.
In other words, don’t expect to see many one-dimensional players on the list when Babcock and his staff unveil the 44-man summer selection camp roster in the next 10 days.
“We’re not looking to bring apples and make oranges,” the Detroit Red Wings head coach said in a conference call yesterday. “We’re going to bring the guys who do on a regular basis what we expect the Canadian Olympic team to do.”
Babcock sat down with assistant coaches Ken Hitchcock, Lindy Ruff and Jacques Lemaire on Wednesday night and reviewed a list of selection camp candidates assembled by general manager Steve Yzerman over the past season.
Some of the hardest decisions will be down the middle. Sidney Crosby, Mike Richards, Vincent Lecavalier, Joe Thornton, Eric Staal, Ryan Getzlaf and Marc Savard are just the beginning of the star-studded list of centre-ice talent.
But Babcock said he won’t hesitate to pick more centres and have them play out of their natural position.
“Steve (Yzerman) played on the wing in 2002 and he was a centre his whole life,” Babcock said. “Good players just play the game and understand how it should be played.”
While there will be plenty of emphasis placed on the summer camp, the staff will spend the first part of 2009-10 evaluating players, particularly younger ones.
Canada’s staff will make the ultimate call, but Babcock said it’s up to the players to prove their worth.
“They’re going to decide who’s on the team,” he said.
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