Mike Babcock Shares His Secret to Success as an Individual (and as a hockey player)

Ben LevesqueCoaching, Mental Game6 Comments

mike babcock and ben levesque

It’s been a few years since I met Mike Babcock.

He came to speak to my team and I about 4 years ago before our National Championship playoff run.

I remember telling myself, “man…this guy can work a room!

He was captivating.

He was inspiring.

He was charismatic.

He literally had the entire room’s attention for quite a long period of time—i don’t even think I blinked once!

But it’s not what he said that night that I want to share with you today (if you want to know what he said that night, pick up his book titled ‘Leave No Doubt‘—it’s a must-read for players and coaches)…

I was lucky enough to cross paths with him again just a few days ago at our annual Redmen Alumni Banquet (the picture above is of him and I after supper that night), and it turns out he had even wiser words to share this time around—including two life lesson that I’ll never forget.

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Now, Mike speaks often and really is one of the best in my opinion, but it’s not every day you get to listen in.

You’d really have to be lucky to catch one of his speeches…

But today, I’m going to share those important life lessons with you in as close to his own words as possible so that you can apply them to your game—and your everyday life!


Here goes!

1. Comfort Kills

Mike Babcock’s main message to the audience was simple:

“Embrace being uncomfortable as you move forward in hockey and life.”

He took us back to a time where he was a young player looking at his different university options. Like many young Canadian men, all he really wanted to do was play hockey.

He eventually settled on McGill University and quickly became uncomfortable and unsure.

babcock mcgill

[Image credit: Winning in Motown]

He had no idea about the school’s academic standard, the commitment level of the students, the demand and the expectations of the professors…it was all new to him, and it’s not what he was used to.

His mind was on hockey, and he had never really embraced being a student before.

He had no plan.

No idea what he wanted to do later on if hockey didn’t work out.

No career path whatsoever.

He was uncomfortable, to say the least.

But that same feeling of “being uncomfortable” is what led to his extreme growth as an individual…

The people, the professors, the coaches & classmates…

The academic load and the new perspectives, thoughts and ideas…

All of this “new unknown” led to amazing growth opportunities that allowed Mike to challenge himself and grow not only as a hockey player, but also as an individual.

‘I was being stretched as a person like I never had been before as a student. I was finding out about myself. I was finding out what I loved to do. That to me is the whole key to loving your life. – Mike Babcock

If he would have remained comfortable and stuck with what he was used to, he would have never grown in the way he did.

His second lesson is just as powerful…

The Gift of Passion

Once you’ve embraced being uncomfortable and you’ve allowed it to drive you forward, find what you love.

If you love something, you have a chance to be good at it.

Ask yourself:

  1. what do you love?
  2. what are you good at?
  3. what gets you out of bed in the morning?
  4. what excites you and energizes you?

“When you figure out what you love, you gotta’ chase it as hard as you possibly can. The gift of passion is this: if you love something, you can grind harder and longer than the guy next to you.” – Mike Babcock


[Img credit: Sportsnet.ca]

Passion allows you to separate yourself from the crowd.

Passion allows you to excel.

If you’re passionate about something, it’s not called a “job”you don’t have a job when you do what you love!

And the thing is…

No one can be GREAT without PASSION.

You can have GOOD without passion…

…but you can’t have GREAT.

What drives passion?

Being uncomfortable.

Mike found out through being uncomfortable that coaching was his passion.

He’s now the only hockey coach in the history of the game to lead teams to victory in the Stanley Cup, the World Championship, and the Olympic Games.


In closing, Mike reminded us to not be the guy that tells the same story for the next 30 years.

Don’t be the guy who lives in the past.

Make new memories. Make new stories. Pursue new opportunities and continue to grow as much as you can.

Think “constant growth”. What made you happy last week won’t make you happy next year.

When you’re comfortable, it’s very close to complacency.

mike babcock

[Image credit: Toronto Sun]

If you’re a hockey player, don’t stay behind to play in a league where you’re the best—jump up a level and be uncomfortable. It’ll force you to develop.

If you’re a hockey coach, don’t stay on a team that has won it all—jump into the unknown and try turning an inexperienced team into a winning team. It’ll force you to grow as a coach.

Uncomfortable is where the fun is at!

Embrace it, and allow yourself to grow into something you never thought possible.

Know someone that would enjoy this article? I’d appreciate if you forwarded it to them!

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About the author

Ben Levesque

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Ben has been playing hockey for 20+ years and has learned a ton from playing with the world's best coaches & players. Among his accomplishments are a National Championship, a President's Cup, a Semi-Final finish at the Memorial Cup, several Queen's Cups and a helmet in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

6 Comments on “Mike Babcock Shares His Secret to Success as an Individual (and as a hockey player)”

  1. Eric Mintz

    Great read! Loved when Babs was coaching my Red Wings – one of my favorite coaches I’ve seen behind the bench here in Detroit. I shared this article with my son who is 14 and has been playing for 7 years.

    1. Ben Levesque

      Hey Eric! I agree, it was awesome to watch him in Detroit. Anxious to see what he can do in Toronto—I don’t think they’ll be at the bottom for much longer. Hope your son enjoys the article! Cheers.

  2. Cory Linstrum

    Mike Babcock is a class act. As a Sharks fan, we’ve never had a lot of love for him since playing against his team usually ended with a loss. However, the few times I’ve heard him interviewed, I’ve been blown away by his integrity and wisdom. Toronto is so lucky to have him!

    1. Ben Levesque

      Cory, you’re most definitely right. He’s filled with wise words, almost like he never runs out! I don’t think Toronto will be a bottom-tier team for much longer…especially with that recent draft lottery result 🙂

  3. Srecko Zizakovic


    I too read his book, “Leave No Doubt” and I love it. I’m thinking about buying a box of them to raffle off at our coach’s kickoff meeting next season. I would highly recommend it to all coaches at all levels and regardless of the sport. It has some great life lessons and real examples of creating your values, living by them and putting them into action in your coaching. I am not a “Leaves” fan, but I agree with Cory that Toronto will be a considerably better team because of Mike.

  4. Pingback: 7 Things Coaches and Scouts Love (that you're probably not doing) - BuiltForHockey.com

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