Babcock denies forcing players to show him phones, displaying photos
Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Mike Babcock denied allegations made by a podcast Tuesday that he forced players to show them photos on their phones and then projected them onto a larger screen.
Paul Bissonnette, the former NHLer and current TV analyst and host of "Spittin' Chiclets," mentioned claims from an anonymous player about Babcock previously making the request and a recent one pertaining to the Blue Jackets.
"This player who texted me said he has about 20 stories exactly like the one I'm about to tell you ... (Babcock) called in players from his team and he'll say, 'Let me see your phone. Open up your photos and I want to see who you are as a person,'" Bissonnette said on Tuesday's show.
"So the players in the past have obviously handed over their phone, they plug it in - I think the video coach plugs it in - and then they bring it up on a flatscreen and he goes through the camera roll on your phone."
Bissonnette said one of the first things Babcock did upon getting to Columbus was ask team captain Boone Jenner to show the bench boss his phone for that reason.
Later on Tuesday, Babcock acknowledged requesting photos from players but denied how the process was portrayed on the podcast.
"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," the head coach said in a statement. "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. These meetings have been very important and beneficial, not only for me but for our players and staff as well, and to have them depicted like this is irresponsible and completely inaccurate."
Jenner said Babcock asked for family photos, which he says they exchanged, and the player characterized their first encounter as a positive one.
"While meeting with Babs he asked me about my family and where I'm from, my upcoming wedding and hockey-related stuff," Jenner said in a statement of his own. "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.”
Bissonnette responded emphatically and skeptically to the statements from Babcock and Jenner, claiming he's "had tons of players confirm" the version of the events he described.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed both the league and the NHLPA looked into the matter, according to NHL.com's Nick Cotsonika. Daly said Bissonnette's characterization of what occurred "isn't consistent" with what players are telling the players' association and added none of them felt their interactions with Babcock were inappropriate.
The Blue Jackets hired Babcock on July 1 after firing Brad Larsen in April. Babcock had been out of the NHL - coaching at the University of Saskatchewan before resigning after one season - since November 2019, when the Toronto Maple Leafs fired him.
Babcock has an apparent history of humiliating players. Mitch Marner confirmed in 2019 that when he was a rookie with the Leafs, Babcock asked him to rank his teammates based on work ethic, and the head coach later shared the list with the team.
Chris Chelios claimed on "Spittin' Chiclets" in 2019 that Babcock berated Johan Franzen to the point where the Detroit Red Wings forward had a nervous breakdown during the 2012 playoffs.