Mike Babcock's 5 biggest hockey victories
Maple Leafs bench boss to coach 1,000th NHL game Thursday
When Mike Leclerc's one-timer from the left faceoff circle beat goalie Fred Brathwaite and stood as the game-winning goal in Anaheim's 4-2 doubling of the St. Louis Blues in October 2002, it gave then-39-year-old head coach Mike Babcock his first NHL victory.
Fast forward more than 13 years and Babcock, now in his third NHL coaching gig after 10 seasons in Detroit, will become the 25th man in league history to coach his 1,000th regular-season game Thursday night when his Toronto Maple Leafs play host to New Jersey.
So what is the key for Babcock's longevity in a 30-team league that welcomed six new head coaches to start this season?
"I think the whole thing about longevity is that you did a good enough job that someone hired you and let you keep working," Babcock, who signed an eight-year deal worth a reported $50 million US to leave Detroit for Toronto last May, told reporters on Wednesday. "I want to be the best coach in my generation."
The now-52-year-old Saskatoon native brings an impressive resume into Thursday's contest, including a 545-307-137 NHL regular-season record.
Below, we highlight Babcock's top coaching achievements.
1997 world juniors: Gold-medal game
Boyd Devereaux and Brad Isbister scored for Canada in a 2-0 blanking of the United States before 4,269 at Vernets Arena in Geneva, Switzerland for the final gold medal in a five-year run. Mike Babcock, who was coaching Canada internationally for the first time, didn't have an elite player at his disposal as Christian Dube, Cameron Mann and Isbister shared the team scoring lead with seven points in seven games. Canada finished second to the U.S. (three wins, one tie) in Group A in the preliminary round with a 2-0-2 record.
Quote: "It was phenomenal," Babcock told the Windsor Star in December 2011. "At that time, I was coaching junior hockey [with the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League]. It was the ultimate for me at that point. It was the highest level I'd ever been at. We had great players and we worked hard."
2003 NHL Western Conference semifinals
In his rookie NHL season, Babcock led the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to the best regular season in franchise history with a 40-27-9-6 record for 95 points. What followed for the Western Conference's seventh seed was a first-round, four-game sweep of the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, a Round 2 elimination of Dallas and a four-game sweep of Minnesota in the conference final, culminating in a 2-1 win over the Wild, who halted Jean-Sebastian Giguere's shutout streak at 217 minutes 54 seconds. Anaheim went on to drop Game 7 of the Cup final to New Jersey.
Quote: "To give up one goal in a series is unbelievable," said Babcock.
2008 Stanley Cup final
The Detroit Red Wings packaged experience and grit to win their fourth straight series of the 2008 post-season on the road, defeating Pittsburgh 3-2 in Game 6 to give Babcock his first and only Stanley Cup title. Henrik Zetterberg notched the winning goal and an assist and was named playoff MVP for a Detroit outfit that became champions for the fourth time in 11 seasons. Babcock went on to lead the Red Wings to the post-season in each of his 10 seasons, losing to Pittsburgh in seven games in the 2009 Cup final, and is the franchise's all-time leader in wins with a record of 458-223-105. Last summer, Babcock signed an eight-year contract worth a reported $50 million to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Quote: "We got great players and we played hard all year," said Babcock. "For over three years we've had a pretty good hockey club and with the leadership of [defenceman Nicklas] Lidstrom … it's a pretty special group."
2010 Olympics: Gold-medal game
Sidney Crosby supplied the heroics, scoring the "golden goal" to lift Canada to a thrilling 3-2 overtime win in the men's championship game at Vancouver's Rogers Arena.
But the road to gold wasn't smooth as Canada lost to the Americans in the preliminary round and required a shootout to beat Switzerland. In the end, Mike Babcock became the only coach to join the Triple Gold Club – members have won a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold and a world championship. At the 2004 worlds in Prague, Babcock guided Canada to a 7-1-1 mark and defeated Sweden to win the gold medal.
Quote: "We didn't start real well in Vancouver but kept getting better each game," then-Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson told NHL.com in October 2013. "That's what [Babcock] emphasized. It's about winning the last game."
2014 Olympics: Gold-medal game
Mike Babcock returned to the Canadian bench in Sochi, Russia in hopes of defending Olympic gold. He wasn't afraid to make all-star defenceman P.K. Subban a healthy scratch or bench veteran forward Martin St. Louis in Canada's 1-0 semifinal win over the United States. Norway, Austria and Finland were Canada's victims in pool play. After Latvia put a scare into Team Canada in the quarter-finals, led by goalie Kristers Gudlevskis' 55-save effort in a 2-1 quarter-final loss, netminder Carey Price and the Canadians dominated the U.S. and Sweden in the final, prevailing 3-0 for their third Olympic gold in the previous four Winter Games. Canada finished the tournament a perfect 6-0 while allowing just three goals.
Quote: "The 2010 [Olympic] team, we won, we got it done, and that was a special, special team, too, and it faced a different kind of pressure," Babcock said months after the Sochi tournament. "This  team was machine-like. It just was going to win period."