BY JAMES COOK
TRAVERSE CITY — A little father-son time isn't that uncommon at the Detroit Red Wings Skill Development Camp.
The hockey-playing sons of Chris Chelios, Ken Holland and Curt Fraser have been past regulars at the camp, and this year that tradition continues with Mike Babcock Jr.
The forward and son of the Wings' head coach just finished his junior year at Detroit Catholic Central, where he played on the Shamrocks' 20-5-1 team.
"It's a fun experience," Babcock Jr. said. "Just to get the opportunity to come here and see what it's like. Having the opportunity to play with some really, really great players is fun. Being the coaches' son, I get teased a little bit, but it's more like, 'I can't kick him out at (locker room soccer) or whatever. He's the coaches' son or we'll get cut.' But it's fun. It's not a really big deal."
His fellow players aren't going to give him a free pass, even though he's the boss's kid.
"I skated with him once in the summer, and he's a good little player," said Notre Dame center and 2010 first-round pick Riley Sheahan. "You just play him like anyone else. Everyone's going to be intense, and I'm sure he will be, too."
At only 150 pounds, Babcock is a year younger than any other player at the camp.
"I've always been too small, too light, whatever," Babcock Jr. said. "It's never been a problem, so hopefully it won't be that much of a difference. I haven't had much contact yet. (Today's) scrimmage should be interesting."
Dean Chelios knows what it's like to be in that situation. The son of former Red Wing great Chris Chelios is in camp again this year.
"I was here around that age — maybe a little older — so I was in his shoes," Dean Chelios said. "It's definitely a lot of pressure. He's a young guy, so he doesn't know all the guys too well. But everyone's nice here and I'm sure they'll welcome him like they welcomed me."
Dean Chelios wasn't so sure he'd get that kind of reception at first, however.
"This camp is pretty laid back anyway," he said. "But in the scrimmages I managed to not get killed. ... I remember my first year, (Justin) Abdelkader just went up and crunched somebody right away in the first scrimmage. And I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm going to get killed.' But nothing happened then, and nothing has happened since then, so it's good."
Drafted in the fifth round by Cedar Rapids of the United State Hockey League, it's not like the younger Babcock doesn't have the chops. He'll be going to Cedar Rapids on July 27 to try out for the team.
"It's a great experience for him," Wings vice president and assistant general manager Jim Nill said. "He's probably sitting at home telling Mike Jr. — 'You've got to work out hard. Here's what you have to do.' And kids can sit at home and say, 'I know, dad. I know, dad.' Now you show up here, and here's why you have to do that. Here's what you have to be if you want to continue playing hockey."
"He always says he can tell me anything he wants, but if someone else told me I'd probably do it," Babcock Jr. joked. "But I listen to everything he has to say most of the time. The fact that everyone else is listening close to him must mean he's doing a good job, so I have to take a couple more notes."
The Red Wings seven-year head coach said it's nice to have a little extra family time, but it's also work for both of them.
"It's real simple — he'd like to be a college athlete," the elder Babcock said. "He's a really good student. And in our family, there's a lot of pressure to get a university degree and a lot of pressure to maximize your potential. But nothing has anything to do with hockey. That's his deal.
"He's a long way from playing at this level. I like to watch all my kids play sports, whether it's my daughters or my son. It's enjoyable, and yet I'm here watching our prospects. It's great to see people get an opportunity and get pushed. When they start playing, these are big men out here. This will be an eye-opener for him and be good for him."