Columbus coach Mike Babcock, players deny invasion of privacy

September 12, 2023, 5:19 PM

Columbus Blue Jackets coach Mike Babcock and captain Boone Jenner are denying allegations that Babcock acted inappropriately and violated players' privacy when asking to see photos on their cellphones.

Former NHL player Paul Bissonnette said on Tuesday's edition of the " Spittin' Chiclets" podcast that Jenner was asked to meet earlier this summer with Babcock, who asked to see images on Jenner's camera roll before displaying them via AirPlay on his office wall.

"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, who is entering his first season behind the Blue Jackets bench, said in a statement released by the team Tuesday. "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."

Jenner released his own statement via the team, confirming Babcock's intent.

"While meeting with Babs, he asked me about my family and where I'm from, my upcoming wedding and hockey-related stuff," Jenner said in the statement. "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."

This isn't the first time Babcock's conduct with players has come under scrutiny.

As coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 2015 to '19, Babcock requested in a private meeting with Mitch Marner that the forward rank his teammates' work ethic, then revealed the rankings to the team. Another former player, Johan Franzen, accused Babcock of being verbally abusive over the decade he played with the Detroit Red Wings.

Babcock's past didn't deter Columbus from hiring him July 1 to replace the previously fired Brad Larsen. In an interview with ESPN on Tuesday, Blue Jackets star forward Johnny Gaudreau said his experience with Babcock has only been positive and felt the allegations levied against him were "shocking."

"Personally, I had a great meeting with him," Gaudreau said. "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, at least, is standing behind what he reported on Tuesday's podcast.

"Tell Babs to knock off the bulls---," Bissonnette posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, in response to Babcock's statement. "Enough with putting guys on the spot in the coaches room asking them to link their phones up to airplay mode and grilling them. I've had tons of players confirm it."