One player said he looked at their phone for an "awkward" amount of time
Longtime NHL coach Mike Babcock has resigned as the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets amid an investigation into why he asked a number of players to show them photos on their phones.
Babcock, 60, had just joined the Blue Jackets in July after previously coaching the Anaheim Ducks, the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“Upon reflection, it has become clear that continuing as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets was going to be too much of a distraction,” Babcock said in a statement released through the team. “While I’m disappointed to not have had the opportunity to continue the work we’ve begun, I know it’s in the best interest of the organization for me to step away at this time. I wish everyone in the organization well in the upcoming season.”
The Blue Jackets announced assistant coach Pascal Vincent agreed to step into the head coaching role, signing a two-year contract to take over Babcock’s position.
The team’s general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement that “this was a difficult decision on everyone’s part, but one we felt necessary to ensure our focus remains on the players and the team’s upcoming season.”
Babcock’s resignation came after days of speculation into a discussion on a podcast that claimed he asked multiple players to show him the photos on their phone. The matter was first brought up by former NHL player Paul Bissonnette, who revealed on his podcast that a player on the Blue Jackets texted him to complain about Babcock asking to see team captain Boone Jenner’s phone so he could look at his photos and project them on a wall.
Bissonnette, 38, and his podcasting partners insinuated Babcock was looking for scandalous photos and said some players were upset. However, soon after, both Babcock and a handful of Blue Jackets players said the coach was instead just asking to see photos of their families so he could get to know the players on his new team more personally.
“While meeting with Babs he asked me about my family and where I’m from, my upcoming wedding and hockey-related stuff,” Jenner, 30, said in a statement released through the team. “He then asked if I had 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 good way for us to start to build a relationship. To have this blown out of proportion is truly disappointing.”
Blue Jackets' star forward Johnny Gaudreau had also told ESPN that he happily shared photos off his phone when Babcock asked.
Another player told ESPN that Babcock, who reportedly asked players in Toronto to share photos as well, looked at their phone for an “awkward” amount of time.
Babcock initially slammed the podcast’s discussion as “irresponsible and completely inaccurate.”
"The way this was portrayed on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast was a gross misrepresentation of those meetings and extremely offensive,” he said.
But the NHL Player’s Association launched an investigation last week, resulting in Babcock’s resignation before ever coaching a game with the team. The investigation also came after Babcock faced allegations from players on previous teams that he could be verbally abusive, according to ESPN.
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