Mike Babcock has resigned as the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, the team announced on Sunday.
“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,” Babcock said in the statement. “While I’m disappointed to not have had the opportunity to continue the work we’ve begun, I know it’s in the best interest of the organization for me to step away at this time. I wish everyone in the organization well in the upcoming season.”
Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen called it a “difficult” but “necessary” decision to “ensure our focus remains on the players and the team’s upcoming season.”
The resignation comes after former National Hockey League (NHL) player and current TNT host Paul Bissonette said on his Barstool Sports podcast, “Spittin’ Chiclets,” last week that a player told him Babcock asked Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner to show him photos on his phone to “let him know the type of person you are.”
Both Babock and Jenner called the allegations a “misrepresentation” of what had actually happened.
“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 in a statement last week. “There was absolutely nothing more to it than that. 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.”
The 30-year-old, 10-year NHL veteran Jenner also denied the allegations and backed up Babcock’s statement.
“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.”
“Our players deserve to be treated with respect in the workplace,” Marty Walsh, NHLPA Executive Director said in a statement to CNN. “Unfortunately, that was not the case in Columbus. The club’s decision to move forward with a new head coach is the appropriate course of action.”
Last week, the NHLPA traveled to Columbus to investigate the allegations against Babcock, a source with knowledge of the situation told CNN.
CNN has reached out to the NHL for comment but did not immediately hear back.
The team named Pascal Vincent the new head coach on Sunday, also announcing they signed the 51-year-old Vincent to a two-year contract through next season.
Vincent joined the Blue Jackets as an associate coach in 2021 after spending 10 seasons with the Winnipeg Jets organization.
“Pascal Vincent is an outstanding coach,” Kekalainen said. “He knows our players and organization and is respected by everyone here. He was a strong candidate for our head coaching position several months ago and is in the best position to help us navigate this change as we begin camp and lead our team moving forward.”
In July, Babcock was named the ninth coach in Blue Jackets history after coaching the Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs previously. The 60-year-old helped lead the Ducks to the Stanley Cup final in 2003 and the Red Wings to a Stanley Cup victory in 2008. Babcock compiled a record of 700-418-19-164. Babcock’s 700 wins are 12th-most in NHL history.