If you’re feeling down on your luck these days, and need a little pick-me-up, Mike Babcock’s recently published book called Leave "No Doubt: A Credo for Chasing Your Dreams" is just what the doctor ordered.
The 138-page book, which the Detroit Red Wings head coach authored with the help of longtime friend Rick Larsen, is truly an inspirational read. It’s as much about life as hockey, the two intertwined throughout the book just like Babcock’s philosophies on life and hockey also share the same place in his heart and mind.
The backdrop is the 2010 Winter Olympics, when Babcock and the rest of Team Canada faced the most pressure many of them would ever feel in their entire careers.
"Leave No Doubt" is the credo Babcock chose for Canada’s quest to win Olympic gold on home ice in the most hockey-crazed nation in the world.
And while in this book Babcock makes Canadians feel awfully proud of themselves and their hockey dominance, you don’t have to be Canadian to be inspired from what Babcock is selling here.
His views on life, on commitment, on hard work, apply to everybody.
While I covered Babcock at the 2003 Stanley Cup finals when he led the underdog Anaheim Ducks to a surprise finals appearance, I got to know him better while being one of only two reporters on hand in Prague at the 2004 IIHF world hockey championship, where Babcock coached Canada to gold. I remember flying home from that tournament thinking Babcock was a superstar in the making in the coaching world, and I would be proved right in the subsequent years when he was hired by the powerhouse Red Wings, coached them to a Stanley Cup and then raised the bar even higher at the Vancouver 2010 Games.
Early in the book, you get a glimpse of the pressure in Vancouver, Babcock bringing us late to the third period of the gold-medal game with the United States.
"And with 24 seconds left in the third period, the Americans scored the tying goal,’’ he writes. ``My daughter Taylor, who was in the stands, slumped into her seat, put her head into her hands and burst into tears. Her reaction was a very personal one, but what she felt captured the emotion of people across our country. Ownership of our game, our dream, our destiny was going into overtime.’’
And with that, we get a journey back from the start of the Olympic journey to the golden ending, mixed in with moments in Babcock’s own journey through the coaching ranks from his early days in junior and college, to his AHL and NHL appointments.
Through all that, you also get a clear picture of a man whose love and devotion to his wife and kids knows no bounds.
"My wife and children energize me every time I’m running low,’’ Babcock writes. ``They give me the fuel to keep me going. I’m so grateful for my family. And oftentimes I feel they give me so much more than I can ever give back.’’
Babcock lost his mother to cancer when she was 51 years old and he was 28. That began a lifelong quest to do whatever he can to help with cancer research and funding, a cause that’s near and dear to his heart to this day. (Babcock’s proceeds from the book will be donated to helping cancer-stricken children.)
Mom was on Babcock’s mind as he head to the Olympics.
``Whatever the outcome, I promised myself, my mom was going to be proud of our Olympic effort,’’ he writes.
The challenge, of course, was daunting: To take gold on home ice with no other result acceptable to 38 million Canadians.
"When we touched down (in Vancouver), the thing that hit you was the overwhelming energy of the people,’’ writes Babcock. "As soon as I walked off the plane, I got the `I’ve got to deliver’ feeling big time. I was ready to go.’’
It was after a round-robin loss to the U.S. that Babcock made one of the gutsiest decisions the sport has seen in years, benching the NHL’s all-time winningest goalie, 2002 Olympic gold medalist Martin Brodeur, in favor of Roberto Luongo for the remainder of the tournament.
"I went to Brodeur and told him that we’d be starting Lou against Germany,’’ writes Babcock. "He said, `Yup.’ That was it. Hard as it was, he took it like the pro he is. Through the rest of the games, Brodeur was nothing but supportive and positive. Talk about leaving your ego at the door.’’
The books ends with the gold-medal game, Team USA tying it late to force overtime. Babcock details his message before overtime to his players, telling them that there’s too much talent on each team for overtime to last much longer than seven or eight minutes. "It’s time to put your foot on the gas and go after them,’’ he told them.
And he felt right then and there that his group was ready. Which leads to a terrific passage in the book:
"Confidence enables you to make strong choices.
"Confidence helps you get beyond doubt.
"Confidence gets you ready for big moments.
"We had won that game before we hit the ice for overtime.
And Babcock would be proved right 7:40 into overtime, when Crosby sniped the Golden Goal past Ryan Miller.
Leave no doubt.