July 22 (Reuters) - Mike Babcock will return as head coach of the defending champion Canadian men’s ice hockey team at next year’s Sochi Olympics, Hockey Canada said on Monday.
Fellow National Hockey League (NHL) veteran coaches Lindy Ruff (Dallas Stars), Ken Hitchcock (St. Louis Blues) and Claude Julien (Boston Bruins) will serve as assistants to the Detroit Reds Wings bench boss.
“Canada’s coaching staff has a great deal of international and professional experience for the challenge that awaits us in Sochi,” Steve Yzerman, executive director of Canada’s national men’s team, said in a statement.
“Mike did a great job setting the foundation for our gold medal win in Vancouver, and I know that with Ken, Claude and Lindy working with him, our team will be very well prepared.”
By leading Canada to a gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games, Babcock became the first coach to earn an Olympic gold, an International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship gold medal and the NHL’s Stanley Cup.
“To win gold in Canada was a dream come true,” Babcock said. “In February, we will have a whole set of new challenges with a new group of players and staff.”
Ruff and Hitchcock also served as assistant coaches when Canada captured the gold medal at the Vancouver Games.
The coaching staff announcement comes three days after the NHL and IIHF reached an agreement to free players for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Alison Wildey)