Mike Babcock resigns as Blue Jackets coach amid NHLPA photo investigation

Less than three months after being hired as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Mike Babcock resigned Sunday as the NHL Players’ Association investigated allegations that he requested access to players’ phones and reviewed their personal photos.

“This was a difficult decision for all of us, but we felt it was necessary to ensure our focus remained on the players and the team’s upcoming season,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement.

Pascal Vincent, who has been the Blue Jackets’ assistant head coach the past two seasons, will replace Babcock as head coach just three days before training camp begins.

“Our players deserve to be treated with respect in the workplace. Unfortunately, that was not the case in Columbus,” NHLPA Executive Director Marty Walsh said in a statement. “The club’s decision to move forward with a new head coach is the right thing to do.”

Babcock’s hiring was announced on July 1, one day after his contract expired with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who released him on an eight-year deal in 2019 after four years. On Sunday, he tendered his resignation following a five-day investigation into allegations that were first brought to the surface last week by former NHL player and current TNT hockey analyst Paul Bissonnette on his podcast “Spittin’ Chiclets.”

“I get a text from a player,” Bissonnette said on the podcast. “He asks, ‘Have you ever heard what Babcock is up to?’ And I say, “No.” So, [Babcock] When he gets to Columbus, the first thing he does is call Boone Jenner, the team captain, and say, “Let me see the photos on your phone.” “I want to know what kind of person you are.” ”

A clip of Bissonnette discussing the incident gained widespread traction on social media, prompting the Blue Jackets to issue statements from both Babcock and Jenner on Tuesday. Both coach and player strongly denied that there was anything untoward about the incident.

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“During our meeting with our players and staff, I asked them to share family photos from their cell phones to get to know them better,” Babcock said in the statement. “There was absolutely nothing left behind it. “The way this was portrayed on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast was a gross misrepresentation of these meetings and extremely offensive.”

Jenner added: “During the meeting with ‘Babs’ he asked me about my family and my heritage, my upcoming wedding and things related to hockey. He then asked me if I had any pictures of my family and I was happy to share some with him. He showed me pictures of his family. I thought it was a great first meeting and a good way for us to start building a relationship. The fact that this is being blown out of proportion is really disappointing.”

Blue Jackets forward Johnny Gaudreau echoed Jenner’s sentiments in an interview on the “32 Thoughts” podcast with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. But Friedman then reported Thursday that Walsh and assistant general manager Ron Hainsey met with players in Columbus and got a different impression of the Blue Jackets’ younger players, some of whom felt uncomfortable in their interactions with Babcock.

The main focus of the investigation, Friedman said, was Babcock’s meetings with the younger players, and he described Walsh and Hainsey’s meetings with the players as “intense.”

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On Friday, Walsh and Hainsey discussed their findings at a previously scheduled meeting with NHL leadership. By Sunday night, Babcock had resigned, ending his tenure with Columbus before coaching a single game — or even leading a formal practice.

“Upon reflection, it has become clear that continuing to be the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets would be too much of a distraction,” Babcock said in a statement. “While I am disappointed that I have not had the opportunity to continue the work I have begun, I know it is in the best interest of the organization for me to step down at this time.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2023/09/17/mike-babcock-resigns-nhlpa-blue-jackets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_homepage Mike Babcock resigns as Blue Jackets coach amid NHLPA photo investigation

Ian Walker

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