Jr. Gulls coach Babin takes long, winding road to San Diego
Noah Babin grew up playing hockey in Florida, so it only makes sense that he feels at home coaching youth hockey in California.
A coach with the San Diego Jr. Gulls since 2012, Babin has immersed himself in the program and prides himself on being part of a staff that is always doing what’s best for the players.
“We really focus on what is important to long-term development and not wins and losses,” Babin said. “You would coach very differently depending on your perspective with that. I think on the whole, we measure our success by the number of kids we move on while a lot of other places measure success by trophies and championships. I can assure you that nobody will care in a few years about your record or the tournaments you won. The Jr. Gulls have everything a player needs – good coaches, good people, great facilities and people that care about the kids. If a kid wants to play hockey and really get better, they have more than I ever had in Florida right here in San Diego.”
Babin started playing roller hockey in Florida and eventually moved north to the Detroit area to play 16U AAA hockey for the esteemed Compuware organization.
“I was about as naive of a player as you can get,” said Babin. “We didn’t expect anything when we moved to Michigan. I just played and we thought it would be a good adventure. I eventually played for Little Caesars and a coach named Chris Coury – a legend in the hockey community. I vividly remember my teammates giving me a hard time because they said I only played well when the NTDP scouts were at the games. My response was, ‘What is the NTDP?’ which everyone always laughed at thinking I was joking, but I never learned until later what the NTDP team was.”
Babin played for USA Hockey’s NTDP program from 2000-02 and then played four years of NCAA Division I hockey at the University of Notre Dame.
“The NTDP program was the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Babin. “I was three years removed from playing hockey in Florida at Midget B and men’s league. Looking back, I realize I had zero clue how significant that was.
“Notre Dame, as a whole, was an amazing experience. I met my wife, Kelsey, there, met some of my best friends there and I truly love the school. What they do and the culture behind the scenes that nobody hears about is something very special.”
After his senior season of 2006-07, Babin signed as a free agent with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, seeing preseason action during one stretch. He played three seasons in the AHL and ECHL before retiring due to a knee injury.
Now, Babin feels he is in Southern California for the long haul.
“Every year has been my last year for the last five years, so I am starting to think I am just a lifer,” laughed Babin. “What keeps me with the Gulls is this. A few years ago, I got to impact a kid (current Ferris State University captain Nate Kallen) and help in a small way change his trajectory. When we first started, there was a day he hit himself in the head while doing weights, even though I warned him it was too much, and he started crying. Fast forward six years and he is a Division I athlete and a great person. I got to go and spend some time with him this summer as an adult. That is really fun stuff.
“The people I have met out here in San Diego have been amazing and it is all through this organization. Hockey is a great sport and attracts great people. It is very fun to be involved with that, especially when I know with my background that I can get kids to buy in to the important things sports has to offers like discipline, mental training, being accountable and doing the right thing.”
— Matt Mackinder
(Oct. 22, 2019)