Mike Babcock is Back and Making Headlines for All the Wrong Reasons….Again

Sep 16, 2023

Former NHL player Paul Bissonnette said on a recent edition of the “Spittin’ Chiclets” podcast that Babcock asked Columbus captain Boone Jenner to show him his camera roll before displaying those photos via AirPlay on the coach’s office wall. 




It’s not like this kind of accusation isn’t plausible. Babcock has a history of being a coach who plays mind games and abuses his power. During the episode, Bissonnette went on to say that: 

“I get a text from a player. He goes, ‘have you heard what Babcock is up to again?’ So he gets to Columbus, and one of the first things he does is he calls in Boone Jenner, the [expletive deleted] captain of the team, and he says, ‘let me see the photos in your phone, I want to know the type of person you are.’ What the [expletive deleted] is going on? is that it’s no Human League. I want to get him on the podcast to grill him about his antics, as a head coach. Like, worry about the [expletive] forecheck, worry about your personnel.” 


Elliotte Friedman reported that members of the NHLPA met with Columbus Blue Jackets players, describing said meeting as ‘intense’. Friedman also noted that many of the younger Blue Jackets players claimed to be uncomfortable with the photo sharing. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the 32 Thoughts podcast in Henderson, Nev., that the league first became aware of the Babcock allegation Tuesday morning and that he had spoken with the PA and multiple players whose depiction of photo-sharing wasn’t “even remotely similar” to how it was portrayed by Bissonnette. 


Mike Babcock’s statement, issued by Columbus states that,

“While meeting with our players and staff I asked them to share, off their phones, family pictures as part of the process of getting to know them better. There was absolutely nothing more to it than that, the way this was portrayed on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast was a gross misrepresentation of those meetings and extremely offensive.” 


In a statement released by the Blue Jackets, Jenner stated: 

“While meeting with Babs he asked me about my family and where I’m from, my upcoming wedding and hockey-related stuff, 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.” 


It may very well have been an innocent meeting, sharing family photos and getting to know each other, or it could have been as insidious as Bissonnette states via his sources. But the fact of the matter is, this is seen as a plausible story because of Babcock’s history. To be fully transparent, getting a second chance is great, however, he will continue to face greater scrutiny than most NHL coaches because of that past, and that scrutiny will continue until he proves he has changed. After all, he tarnished his reputation which led to him being fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in November 2019 following multiple accusations of mental abuse of players. 




While head coach of the Leafs, Babcock requested a private meeting with then-rookie Mitch Marner, he then had the young forward rank his teammates by work ethic. Which is a horrible thing to ask one of the youngest players on a team, because it forces him to bad-mouth his own teammates. But wait, it gets worse, Babcock then shared the list with the players who were at the bottom of that ranking, embarrassing Marner and those players. This is a clear form of abuse by a coach. The incident was reported to then-general manager Lou Lamoriello, who then fired Babcock. 



“Enough with putting guys on the spot in the coach’s room asking them to link their phones up to AirPlay mode and grilling them. I’ve had tons of players confirm it,” Bissonnette said after the episode was released.  


But that incident in Toronto wasn’t the first incident in his coaching career, he has long been known to be problematic. Former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Aaron Ward, a three-time Stanley Cup Champion and now a regular contributor to TSN 690 radio in Montreal has had experience with Babcock and has been vocal of his dislike for the approach the coach takes with his players for many years. Ward sees this whole episode as nothing more than a power trip by Babcock, and he is correct. This is one method used by coaches, even retail managers, to show their players or employees that they are in charge and that those below them must submit to their will. 


“You’re going to put them in a highly uncomfortable position and see if they’re willing to succumb to your demands, hand me your phone. Let me see what’s on your photo roll.” Ward said. “You could have all kinds of things on your photo roll, things that you don’t especially feel like sharing with the boss in your work environment.” 


Aaron Ward prepares a response to Mike Babcock demanding to see his photos


The request to see family photos isn’t what is wrong, it’s the method of doing so. If a leader wants to truly know their people, they’ll sit with them and have a conversation. Beginning with questions about them, their family, and so on, then, if and only if that person seems comfortable, the manager asks to see photos of the family, and allows that person to hold and control their own phone, letting them control the pace at which they reveal their personal lives. Did Babcock overstep? It is likely he did, based on his long history of doing so. Everyone deserves a second chance but the fact this drama began in only the first week of the NHL players returning to their team facilities is a massive red flag. 


Blain Potvin

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