Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Mike Babcock and captain Boone Jenner have denied allegations that the bench boss violated the forward's privacy.
The allegations stemmed from Paul Bissonnette of Barstool’s Spittin’ Chiclets podcast stating that Jenner was summoned by Babcock for a meeting earlier this summer. Babcock allegedly asked to see the photos on Jenner’s phone, then used AirPlay to display Jenner’s photos on his office television.
*Warning, language in the video below is NSFW
— Spittin' Chiclets (@spittinchiclets) September 12, 2023
Babcock and Jenner each released statements via the Blue Jackets, claiming the meeting has been grossly mischaracterized.
“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,” Babcock said.
“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 echoed his coach's feelings, claiming the pictures helped the two get off on the right foot ahead of the new season.
“While meeting with Babs he asked me about my family and where I’m from, my upcoming wedding and hockey-related stuff,” Jenner said. “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.”
Star Blue Jackets forward Johnny Gaudreau backed Babcock and Jenner publicly, saying the allegations were "shocking" to him and that his interactions with his new coach have only been positive.
“Personally, I had a great meeting with him,” Gaudreau told ESPN's Kristen Shilton on Tuesday. “We got to share things together, pictures of our family. I was a little upset to see the way it was handled and how it came out ... but nothing you can do about it. We got off to a great start, had a great meeting with him and looking forward to working together.”
Bissonnette, however, did not back down from his stance after the statements were released, releasing a tweet that told Babcock to "knock off the bulls***."
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly also chimed in on the allegations.
“We followed up with the club, and I know the Players’ Association has followed up directly with the players,” Daly told NHL.com's Nick Cotsonika. “What was being reported by Paul Bissonette — or at least his characterizations of what transpired — isn’t consistent with what the players are reporting to the Players’ Association, including that none of them felt that the interactions were at all inappropriate or impromper.”
Asked if the NHL is currently satisfied that “this a non-issue,” Daly responded: “At this point, yes.”
Babcock is no stranger to controversy and alleged mistreatment of players. During his tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was revealed that Babcock made Mitch Marner rank his teammates’ work ethic. Babcock then read the list aloud to the rest of the team.
Johan Franzen, who starred for the Detroit Red Wings under Babcock’s watch, called him the worst person he’s ever met, accusing Babcock of verbally abusing him.
Babcock was hired by the Blue Jackets on July 1, his first NHL head coaching position since being fired by the Maple Leafs in November 2019. The 60-year-old was once considered one of hockey’s master tacticians, leading the Anaheim Ducks to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2003, while winning the Cup with the Red Wings in 2008. Babcock’s 700 wins rank 12th all-time, fifth among active coaches.
On the international stage, he has coached Canada to two Olympic gold medals, World Juniors gold, World Championship gold and a World Cup of Hockey title.