New Columbus Blue Jackets coach Mike Babcock said Tuesday he had done nothing wrong in asking players to show him photos off their phones, clarifying he was trying to get to know them after a report emerged criticizing him for invasion of privacy.
Paul Bissonnette said on the ‘Spittin’ Chiclets’ podcast he was told by an unidentified player that Babcock asked captain Boone Jenner to show him photos. Bissonnette, a former NHL player-turned-analyst for TNT, relayed he was informed Babcock told Jenner: “Let me see the photos in your phone. I want to know the type of person you are.”
Babcock and Jenner in a joint statement released by the Blue Jackets called it “a gross misrepresentation of those meetings and extremely offensive.” Jenner said the meeting was a good start to his relationship with Babcock and expressed disappointment.
“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," Babcock said. "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 him about his family, where he's from and his upcoming wedding, along with hockey-related conversation.
“He then asked if I had pictures of my family, and I was happy to share some with him,” Jenner said. “He showed me pictures of his family.”
Bissonnette responded to the statements with a profane social media post that told Babcock to knock it off.
“Enough with putting guys on the spot in the coaches room asking them to link their phones up to airplay mode and grilling them,” Bissonnette said on X, the platform formally known as Twitter. “I’ve had tons of players confirm it.”
Johnny Gaudreau, the Blue Jackets' biggest star and highest-paid player, said at the NHL/NHLPA Player Media Tour in suburban Las Vegas that he's had great interactions with Babcock, starting with a 45-minute get-to-know-you session the weekend of Jenner's wedding.
Gaudreau said Babcock asked him for family photos and the coach showed his own as a way to get some familiarity.
“I just think it was a really cool and unique way of getting to know your player,” Gaudreau said. “I thought it was kind of a good little starting point for us to get to know each other.”
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said he spoke with NHL Players' Association assistant executive director Ron Hainsey and that the league and union looked into the situation and found nothing wrong.
“(Hainsey's) reports are that the players involved had no concerns at all with respect to the interactions that were had," Daly said. “They weren’t inappropriate, they weren’t improper and to the extent they were suggested to be, it was a misperception.”
Babcock is back in the league after a nearly four-year absence. When the 2008 Stanley Cup-winning coach was fired by Toronto in 2019, reports emerged of some polarizing old-school coaching techniques, including asking Maple Leafs player Mitch Marner to list teammates from hardest- to least-hardest working.
After taking the job in Columbus in July, Babcock said he has evolved as a coach and learned how better to deal with players.
“Change in all of us takes time,” Babcock said over the summer. “I think what this has done is given me a chance to get outside my body and have a look and see what I’m doing and understand you needed to change, you needed to grow.”
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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press