"Whether you believe it or not, I believe this is Canada's team and we need to put Canada's team back on the map," Babcock told a buzzing media contingent at Air Canada Centre on Thursday while accepting the job as the 30th head coach in Maple Leafs history.
It was one seemingly innocuous comment at the beginning of a lengthy news conference, but it certainly touched a nerve.
The Maple Leafs added to the outrage when they posted a Vine video of Babcock uttering the offending phrase on their Twitter account.
Social media justice was swift. "Canada's Team" was the second-highest trending topic in the country on Twitter, with several posters mocking the suggestion that the Maple Leafs represented hockey fans nationwide.
"'Canada's Team' Jesus. This is why Canada hates Toronto," read one Twitter post.
Some felt the Montreal Canadiens, with their proud history, are Canada's team.
"Canada deserves better than a perennial loser and disappointment. Everybody knows who Canada's team is. #Habs," posted Calgary Stampeders punter Rob Maver.
Others believed the term "Canada's team" should be reserved for international tournaments.
"If you mention 'Canada's team' and you're not referring to an international tournament I want to fire you directly into the sun," was the pointed response from one Twitter user.
Of course, few are more qualified on speaking on Canada's international experience than Babcock. He has coached Canada to two Olympic gold medals, a world championship title and a world junior championship crown.
Other posters simply seized the opportunity to take a shot at the Leafs for their disastrous on-ice product. The Leafs have missed the playoffs in nine of the last 10 seasons and seeming quit trying last season while slumping to a 30-44-8 record, second-worst in the Eastern Conference.
One tweet that summed up the Leafs' recent ineptitude read: "Trading away draft picks. Gave up 3 goals in Game 7 in Boston. 1 playoff appearance in 10yrs. No ring in 40+ yrs. 'Canada's Team'. Riiight."
At least one Twitter poster had kinder words for Babcock.
"Good luck coach Mike Babcock And @MapleLeafs!!! Toronto deserve to get back to the top!," posted former NHL superstar Teemu Selanne.Suggest a correction