Mike Babcock resigns as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets amid investigations

Mike Babcock resigns as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets amid investigations

The Blue Jackets’ Mike Babcock era lasted barely three months and was over before the controversial coach could sit on the bench in a single game.

Babcock resigned Sunday, four days after allegations surfaced on a popular hockey podcast that he violated players’ privacy during offseason meetings and 78 days after the Blue Jackets announced him as their new head coach.

The team also announced that assistant coach Pascal Vincent was named head coach and agreed to a two-year contract.

It’s a stunning development as the team is set to open training camp on Wednesday.

Reviews were conducted by the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association after former NHL player and TNT studio host Paul Bissonnette claimed on the “Spittin’ Chiclets” podcast Tuesday that Babcock, 60, was demanding access to players’ phones, so he could scroll through personal photos.

The Blue Jackets’ initial response to the podcast’s allegations was to defend themselves against them and explain what happened, adding the context of Babcock and captain Boone Jenner, whose meeting with Babcock Bissonnette referenced in the podcast had taken.

Bissonnette said Babcock told the Blue Jackets captain he wanted to look at the photos on his phone to “see what kind of person you are.”

Hours after the podcast’s release, Babcock and Jenner issued statements via the Blue Jackets refuting Bissonnette’s version of events and saying it was “disappointing” to see their interaction taken out of context. In conversations with The Columbus Dispatch following those statements, Babcock and Jenner each said that the Jackets’ captain responded to Babcock’s request by using Apple’s Airplay feature to share some photos on the television screen in the coach’s office publish.

“It’s disappointing to me that it’s completely disproportionate,” Jenner said. “That was the first time we met. It was a really good meeting and all the conversations we’ve had since then have been really good.”

Blue Jackets forward Johnny Gaudreau echoed Jenner’s story, saying his interactions with Babcock over the summer were positive. Defenseman Zach Werenski said the same thing Wednesday on 97.1 FM.

“I think it’s one of those things where it’s really a non-event in our locker room,” Werenski said. “I think the guys didn’t even think twice about it when they met with ‘Babs’ and went through that process. It’s so harmless to him. He’s just trying to get to know people.”

Werenski met with Babcock at the coach’s home in Brighton, Michigan, and said the screen-sharing feature on his phone didn’t work during the three-hour chat. After speaking with several teammates about their meetings with the coach, Werenski said he didn’t spot any red flags regarding Babcock.

“Everyone I spoke to said the same thing,” Werenski said on the radio show. “He just wants to see our family, see our dogs, where we’re from, what we like to do in the summer…no boundaries have been crossed with anyone at all.”

The Blue Jackets’ reversal of the allegations followed an NHLPA investigation that saw the organization’s top two executives – general manager Marty Walsh and assistant general manager Ron Hainsey – fly to Columbus on Thursday to speak with players. Walsh, Hainsey and NHLPA general counsel Don Zavelo then traveled to New York to meet with NHL officials at league headquarters on Friday.

It was a previously scheduled meeting, but NHLPA officials informed the league of what they had learned about Babcock’s interactions with players. The NHLPA issued a statement following the meeting saying the NHL had provided an update on the union’s ongoing review of the matter. The NHL had no comment following the meeting.

Contact Brian Hedger at bhedger@dispatch.com; follow him @BrianHedger.

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