By Nick Barnowski -
TRAVERSE CITY - Michael Babcock Jr. did not have to be a hockey player.
Even with all of the attention his last name gets, he said that his dad, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, had never pressured him into the game. Instead, he’s making the most out of his own choice to lace up the skates.
“My dad’s good about it,” Babcock Jr. said during this week’s Red Wings summer development camp in Traverse City. “He influenced me a lot but it wasn’t anything major.”
The 18-year-old forward faced most of the heckling about the name on the back of his jersey in his younger playing days, and now that he’s older, most of his opponents tend to not focus on it.
“You get the occasional heckling but no pressure for me,” he said.
The elder Babcock is thrilled to have his son on the ice with the club’s prospects for the second year in a row.
“As a parent you like to watch your kids do anything, it makes you proud,” the Detroit coach said. “I’m a big believer in life that you have to maximize your potential, squeeze every ounce of yourself that you have whether it’s in sport or in school so here’s an opportunity for him.”
In his second year at the camp, Babcock Jr. said that he’s more comfortable on and off the ice.
“I know a bunch of the guys so it’s easier that way and you kind of know what to expect,” he said. “Camp’s a little bit shorter than the last year but I feel comfortable, feel good.”
Babcock Jr., who is 5-9 and 150 pounds, has spent the majority of his hockey career in the state of Michigan, and he excelled under coach Todd Johnson at Detroit Catholic Central.
“[He] was one of the best coaches I’ve had, if not the best,” the younger Babcock said. “He focused a lot of structure and skill and stuff so in the three years I was there I grew a lot.”
The Northville native had 18 goals and 24 assists in 30 games in his senior season with the Shamrocks, which made him feel more prepared for his jump to the USHL next season.
“I scored a lot more than I did previous years and I got the opportunity to be one of the guys that needs to be on to help the team win so it was a good leaning experience for myself.”
He played five games for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL this past season, but will play two full seasons in the league before heading off to Merrimack College. Two days ago, he was traded to the Fargo Force for a 2014 USHL draft pick.
While he was not too happy to be traded, he drove through Fargo with his dad on the way to their cottage in Saskatchewan and liked what he saw.
“The place is unreal, the coaches are great, so I couldn’t be happier,” he said. “There’s really no reason not to get better there. They’ve had a long history, so hopefully we can get it done next year.”
The elder Babcock commented on his son’s current plans for the near future: “He’s in his age group, he’s got a plan for his next six years as far as going to the U.S. junior league and then he’s committed to a school. It’s just like any of these kids, you got to keep getting better and if you keep getting better someone will give you an opportunity to play.”
Babcock Jr. is eligible for the 2014 NHL draft, and regardless of what happens, he’s happy to just get the chance to play hockey at a high level.
“I’m playing hockey for six more years, anytime I can I’ll just take it and if the opportunity’s there I’ll definitely go after it but if it’s not there I won’t be bitter.”