Sep 14, 2023 - News

Jackets coach denies prying on players' photos

Blue Jackets head coach Mike Babcock at a press conference. Photo: Jason Mowry/Getty Images

New Blue Jackets' head coach Mike Babcock is denying allegations he pried into players' cellphone pictures upon joining the team this summer.

Why it matters: The unsubstantiated claim of misconduct puts Columbus in the hockey spotlight ahead of a much-needed rebuilding season.

Catch up quick: The controversy was spurred by former NHL player Paul Bissonnette on a hockey podcast released Tuesday morning.

What they're saying: "This is coming from somebody in the NHL," Bissonnette said of receiving a tip from a player. "[Babcock] gets to Columbus and one of the first things he does is he calls in Boone Jenner, the captain of the f—ing team, and he says, 'Let me see the photos in your phone. I want to know the type of person you are.'"

  • Bissonnette claimed Babcock had done the same with players on previous teams.

The other side: Babcock and Jenner both deny the allegations.

  • "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 coach responded.
  • Jenner described a "great first meeting" that involved sharing family photos with each other, which was then "blown out of proportion."

Meanwhile, Bissonnette doubled down on his claims and gave the Babcock-Jenner statement a hard check into the board.

Of note: NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league and the players' association haven't seen evidence that anyone on the team thinks Babcock's actions were inappropriate.

Between the lines: Babcock, who was hired this summer on a two-year contract, has had past issues communicating with players a reputation he claimed to have cleaned up before heading to Columbus.

  • The former Red Wings coach was accused of bullying a Detroit player to the point of a "nervous breakdown," The Hockey News reported.
  • While coaching in Toronto, he allegedly asked a player to rank teammates based on their effort level and used the list against them.

State of play: The Blue Jackets had the worst Eastern Conference record last season and have not made the playoffs since 2019-20.

  • Babcock ranks 12th all-time in NHL coaching wins and won the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008.
  • Pre-season exhibitions begin Sept. 24 and the first regular season game is on Oct. 12.
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