Havelid Reconstructs Role
Defenseman Niclas Havelid was a 5-foot-11, 197-pound question mark when training camp began.
He had spent the previous season trying to regain his form after having reconstructive surgery on his right knee during the 2000-01 season. Havelid is now a vital part of a defense that has been as good as any in the NHL.
“It has been great to see Nicky get back to the player he was before,” defenseman Keith Carney said. “When he is 100%, he’s a guy that can put pressure on the other team because of his skills.”
Havelid came into the NHL in 1999-2000 as a defenseman who was considered strong on offense. However, it’s his defense that has been apparent during the playoffs. He has been especially effective blocking shots.
“I’m much more patient as a defenseman because our system is much more patient,” Havelid said. “We are always trying to be in the right spot instead of just banging guys.”
Duck hierarchy wasn’t sure what sort of player Havelid would be when training camp began. He played 52 games in 2001-02, but it took him the whole season to rehabilitate his knee completely.
It didn’t take long for Coach Mike Babcock to see Havelid was a different player.
“Confidence is a big issue and Nicky earned the right to be confident,” Babcock said.
Havelid had career highs with 11 goals and 22 assists. He played on the first power-play unit through the first half of the season and the Ducks were among the NHL’s top five through January.
Babcock is the second former McGill University hockey player to coach a team in the Stanley Cup finals. He’s in good company. The first was the legendary New York Ranger coach Lester Patrick, for whom the Patrick Trophy is named. It is awarded for outstanding service to hockey in the United States.
Patrick coached the New York Rangers to three Stanley Cup titles. He served as the team’s general manager, owner and NHL governor until leaving the Rangers in 1947, the same year he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
“You’re made aware of the hockey history at McGill,” Babcock said.
That lineage includes Duck General Manager Bryan Murray.
Babcock attended McGill, which is in Montreal, from 1983 to 1987 and received a degree in physical education. He also played 146 games for the Redmen. He finished his career with 22 goals and 107 points, making him the second-highest scoring defenseman in McGill history.
“It was really an Ivy League school,” Babcock said. “We would go on the road and play Princeton and Brown and Yale. Everywhere we went, a McGill alum would have us over to his really big house, these guys owned mountains, for dinner.
“My mom wanted me to go there because she was French-Canadian and wanted me to learn to speak French. Well, what we didn’t know was McGill was the school where the French kids went to learn English. When I started talking bad French to them, they would start speaking English to me.”
Defenseman Fredrik Olausson said he intends to play one more season, whether it is in the NHL or Europe. The Ducks signed Olausson, 36, to a one-year contract with a team option last summer. He has been a healthy scratch in 13 of 14 playoff games.
Remaining tickets for the Ducks’ Stanley Cup finals games at the Arrowhead Pond sold out in 1 hour 15 minutes Wednesday.