In a rather abrupt conclusion to a brief tenure, Mike Babcock has resigned from his role as the coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. After only two months on the job, the departure came on the heels of allegations earlier this week claiming Babcock was asking players to show him photos on their mobile phones.
Babcock’s sudden exit was confirmed by the team following an inquiry led by the NHL Players’ Association into his conduct. In his stead, associate coach Pascal Vincent has been appointed. Vincent has secured himself a two-year contract, which runs through the 2024-25 season.
Former NHL player Paul Bissonnette suggested on the “Spittin’ Chiclets” podcast that the seasoned coach had requested players to reveal photographs on their phones during individual meetings. These photographs were reportedly shared on his television.
The 60-year-old Babcock issued a joint statement with Columbus captain Boone Jenner, released by the Blue Jackets, labeling the report as an “extremely offensive” and “a gross misrepresentation of those meetings.”
The NHLPA released a statement last Thursday noting that its executive director and assistant executive director had been in Columbus, Ohio, probing into these reports. As part of the investigation, Marty Walsh and Ron Hainsey engaged in conversations with some Blue Jackets players. By Friday, the union had updated the league with its preliminary findings.
In an official statement released by the Blue Jackets on Sunday, Babcock’s resignation was identified as a collective decision made by the team and the coach. He acknowledged, “Upon reflection, it has become clear that continuing as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets was going to be too much of a distraction.”
Stating his regret for being unable to carry on with the work they had started, Babcock said, “While I’m disappointed…I know it’s in the best interest of the organization for me to step away at this time.”
Jarmo Kekalainen, the Blue Jackets general manager, backed the move, expressing it was necessitated “to ensure our focus remains on the players and the team’s upcoming season.”
After Babcock’s dismissal from the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2019, the coach had faced criticism for his outdated behaviour. Away from the league for nearly four years, Babcock, who formerly led the Detroit to a Stanley Cup victory in 2008, stated that he had grown as a coach and adopted better ways to deal with players after his firing from Toronto.
The new coach, 51-year-old Vincent, was an associate coach with the Blue Jackets before he took over. His tenure with the Winnipeg Jets, including a term as head coach of the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, spanned a decade. On his appointment, he revealed, “This is a difficult day, but I am looking forward to this opportunity and appreciate the organization’s confidence in me to lead this team.”