Mike Babcock resigned as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday after just two months on the job, after earlier this week asking players to show him photos on their phones.
The team announced Babcock’s shocking departure following an investigation by the NHL Players Association into his conduct. Associate coach Pascal Vincent was named Babcock’s replacement and signed a two-year contract through the 2024-25 season.
Former NHL player Paul Bissonnette said on the “Spittin’ Chiclets” podcast that an unidentified player told him the veteran coach would ask players during individual meetings to look at photos on their phones and then stream them on his TV.
The NHLPA said Thursday that its executive director and deputy executive director were in Columbus, Ohio, to investigate the reports. Marty Walsh and Ron Hainsey were meeting with some Blue Jackets players as part of the investigation.
The union updated the league on Friday about its findings.
SEE | Babcock resigns from Blue Jackets:
In a statement released Sunday, the Blue Jackets said Babcock’s resignation was a mutual decision between the team and the coach.
“Upon reflection, it became clear that continuing as head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets was going to be a major distraction,” Babcock said in a statement. “While I am disappointed not to have had the opportunity to continue the work we have started, I know that it is best for the organization for me to step away at this time. I wish everyone in the organization the best in the coming season.”
Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said the move was necessary “to ensure our focus remains on the players and the team’s upcoming season.”
Babcock had spent nearly four years out of the league after being fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2019, and former players criticized the coach and his old-school behavior after his departure.
Vincent, 51, joined the Blue Jackets as an associate coach in 2021 after spending 10 years in the Winnipeg Jets organization, including five as head coach of the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League from 2016 to 2021.
“This is a difficult day, but I look forward to this opportunity and appreciate the organization’s trust in me to lead this team,” he said.
In a Sunday statement from the NHLPA, CEO Walsh welcomed Columbus’ decision.
“Our players deserve to be treated with respect in the workplace. 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,” Walsh wrote.