Road To 2009 Stanley Cup Finals Came Through Cincinnati Gardens



Red Wings Mike Babcock vs. Penguins Dan Bylsma



For the second straight season, the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup Finals will feature the Detroit Red Wings versus the Pittsburgh Penguins. But the series will also have a very definitive, Cincinnati flavor. The two head coaches of the respective teams both cut their teeth in the minor leagues, as a coach with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the American Hockey League. Detroit Red Wings head coach, Mike Babcock and Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, got their professional coaching careers started at the Cincinnati Gardens, with the AHL Mighty Ducks.


Mike Babcock spent two seasons as the head coach for the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks from 2000-2002. It was the first professional head coaching position for Babcock, who had previously coached at the college and junior hockey levels. During Babcock's two seasons as the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks bench boss, he guided the team to a 74-59-20-7 record and playoff appearances in both seasons. In the 2000-2001 season, Babcock led the team to a 41-26-9-4 record, which at the time, was the most single season wins, in franchise history.


After two seasons in Cincinnati, Babcock was promoted to head coach of the parent club Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. In his first season as an NHL head coach, Babcock guided Anaheim to the finals of the Stanley Cup, before losing in seven games to the New Jersey Devils. And one of the players on that Stanley Cup runner-up squad with Anaheim; right winger Dan Bylsma. In 2005, Babcock left Anaheim after two seasons, to become head coach of the Detroit Red Wings. Last season, Babcock reached the pinnacle of the coaching mountain, as the Red Wings captured the Stanley Cup Championship in six games, over the Pittsburgh Penguins.


Dan Bylsma has been a professional head coach for less than one season and an NHL head coach for just over three months. Bylsma was named the interim head coach of Pittsburgh, in March, 2009, after beginning the season as the head coach of the Penguins AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. It was Bylsma's first opportunity as a head coach. After leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to a 35-16-1-2 record in 54 games, Bylsma was promoted to the NHL, where he replaced the fired Michael Therrien in Pittsburgh.


But Bylsma got his first coaching experience as an assistant with the AHL Cincinnati Mighty Ducks during the 2004-2005 season, serving as an assistant to Brad Shaw. That Cincinnati squad won 44 games, besting the previous franchise best by Babcock's 2000-2001 AHL Mighty Ducks. Bylsma moved to the NHL the next season, following Shaw to the New York Islanders. The following season, Bylsma moved to the Penguins organization as an assistant at AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Two years later and his first as a pro head coach; Bylsma will look to guide the resurgent Penguins, to a Stanley Cup Championship.


The 2009 Stanley Cup Finals will begin on Saturday and while the Stanley Cup Championship will not be decided in Cincinnati, the road to the 2009 NHL title did make a stop, once-upon-a-time, at the Cincinnati Gardens!

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