UVM men’s hockey head coach Todd Woodcroft talks offseason, new coaching staff

Sports

First-year coach brings in Mike Babcock, Mark Stuart in voluntary roles

The UVM men’s hockey coaching staff is being bolstered by nearly 2,000 combined games of NHL regular season experience.

Head coach Todd Woodcroft is bringing in NHL veteran Mark Stuart in a voluntary assistant role, and acclaimed NHL coach Mike Babcock will come in as a voluntary coaching advisor.

Babcock coached in the NHL as recently as November 2019, but was fired from his role at the helm of the Toronto Maple Leafs after the team got off to a slow start. In his career, he has won 700 regular season games, and is the only coach ever to coach a team to a Stanley Cup, and Olympic gold medal, a World Cup, a World Championship and a World Junior Championship. Todd Woodcroft shared in Babcock’s World Championship success in 2004 as a video coach for Team Canada.

“I don’t think we had the best team going into that tournament. We learned a lot of lessons and had a lot of hard losses,” Woodcroft said. “Mike was able to keep that ship going, and we ended up winning that [championship] game, and that’s one of the highlights of my career. I’m glad to have won alongside a guy like Mike, because we’ve been lifelong friends since then.”

In his voluntary role, Babcock will not be with the team full-time, but will instead stop in periodically throughout the season. It is also worth noting that Babcock is still on the Toronto Maple Leafs, and currently has three years left as part of an eight-year, $50-million contract he signed with the team in 2015.

NHL veteran Mark Stuart joins the UVM staff in his first-ever coaching job. The Colorado College alum played 673 regular season games in the NHL and finished his career on the Winnipeg Jets, where Woodcroft got a first-hand look at Stuart’s work ethic.

“You want to have someone who’s recently removed from the game, and who you saw on a day-by-day basis do things right,” Woodcroft said. “Mark never cheated a single second that he was on the ice, in the weight room, how he ate, how he took care of himself , with his community service – all those little things. I knew in my head that, at some point in my life, I wanted to work with Mark.”

As the season approaches, Woodcroft is weighing the positives of a possibly-delayed season, especially as the team tries to implement a new system with him at the helm.

“Time is the commodity that we do have in this pandemic. Everybody wants to rush and get going, but I’m okay if we just wait until we make sure everything is right.” Woodcroft said. “I know that we’re going to take every moment that we have as a coaching staff to get these guys ready for when we do drop the puck.”

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