A pair of Western Hockey League Alumni will soon be given Canada’s highest hockey honour.
Mike Babcock and Ryan Smyth were announced as two of the three 2018 Distinguished Honourees of the Order of Hockey in Canada – an Hockey Canada initiative that began in 2012 to celebrate individuals for their outstanding contributions or service to the growth and development of the sport of hockey in Canada.
University of Calgary Dinos head coach and Olympic goal medalist Danielle Goyette was named as the third honouree.
Babcock’s lengthy hockey career has included several WHL clubs, including the Saskatoon Blades and Kelowna Wings with whom he played 98 WHL regular season games, recording 59 points (22G-37A).
His time in the WHL also helped kickstart a legendary coaching career. Babcock served as the bench boss for the Moose Jaw Warriors and Spokane Chiefs between the 1991-92 and 1999-00 seasons. His 284 wins as a head coach in the WHL rank 29th all-time.
During the 1996-97 season, his third with the Chiefs, Babcock coached Canada to a victory at the 1997 IIHF World Junior Championship. He has gone on to coach Canada at several major international competitions, winning gold at the 2004 IIHF World Championship, 2010 and 2014 Olympic Winter Games and recently guided Canada to a victory at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Babcock won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in the 2007-08 season and now serves as the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. His 620 NHL victories rank 14th all-time.
Smyth, took a path through the WHL on his way to a 1270-game NHL career, most notably with the Edmonton Oilers. Drafted by the Moose Jaw Warriors in the second round, 21st overall, of the 1991 WHL Bantam Draft, Smyth would go on to play the entirety of his 188 WHL regular season games with the WHL club, recording 224 points (110G-114A).
After winning a gold medal with Canada at the 1995 World Junior Championship, Smyth went on to collect gold with Canada at the 2003 and 2004 editions of the IIHF World Championship, 2004 World Cup while also capturing gold with Canada at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. In his 1270 NHL games, Smyth recorded 842 points (386G-456A). Babcock, Smyth, and Goyette will be recognized June 18 by Hockey Canada. He was originally drafted by the Oilers in the first round, sixth overall, of the 1994 NHL Draft.
“As players and coaches, this group has led the way on and off the ice, teaching and inspiring Canadian players at all levels of the game,” said Tom Renney, chief executive officer of Hockey Canada . “To be selected as a Distinguished Honouree of the Order of Hockey in Canada is one of the most prestigious accomplishments one can receive in hockey in Canada, and this year’s honourees are well-deserving of the recognition. On behalf of my colleagues at Hockey Canada, the Order of Hockey in Canada selection committee, as well as our board members, I would like to congratulate Danielle, Mike, and Ryan, and we look forward to celebrating them in London on June 18.”
Since its inception in 2012, the Order of Hockey in Canada has recognized 21 honourees, including: Jean Béliveau (2012); Scotty Bowman (2017); David Branch (2016); Cassie Campbell-Pascall (2012); Clare Drake (2014); Jim Gregory (2015); Wayne Gretzky (2012); Geraldine Heaney (2016); Paul Henderson (2013); Gordie Howe (2012); Dave King (2013); Mario Lemieux (2016); Mark Messier (2013); Bob Nicholson (2016); Pat Quinn (2015); Gordon Renwick (2012); France St-Louis (2014); Serge Savard (2015); and Steve Yzerman (2014).
A selection committee of 12 members – appointed by the Order of Hockey in Canada executive committee, established by Hockey Canada – is tasked with nominating and selecting, via secret ballot, the annual recipients of the Order of Hockey in Canada. The committee members represent a cross-section of individuals with great and varied experience around the game of hockey in Canada, including members of the media and hockey administration.