The NHL Players’ Association is reviewing the situation with Columbus Blue Jackets coach Mike Babcock after it came to light earlier this week that he asked players to show him photos on their phone.
Former player-turned analyst Paul Bissonnette reported on his podcast Tuesday that Babcock asked captain Boone Jenner to show him photos on his phone in an apparent invasion of player privacy. Babcock, Jenner and winger Johnny Gaudreau said photo exchanges did happen but defended them as a way for the new coach to get to know his players.
The union nevertheless launched a review, with new executive director Marty Walsh meeting with Blue Jackets players in Columbus on Thursday. On Friday, Walsh, assistant Ron Hainsey and general counsel Don Zavelo met with NHL officials at the league office in New York to provide them with an update.
The NHLPA said it would have no further comment. An NHL spokesperson said the league did not have any comment on the situation.
Babcock's conduct is being scrutinized because of past reports of some polarizing old-school coaching techniques, including asking Maple Leafs player Mitch Marner to list teammates from hardest- to least-hardest working. That, and other criticism of Babcock, surfaced when he was fired in 2019 by Toronto.
This is the 2008 Stanley Cup-winning coach's first NHL job since. Babcock said upon taking the job in July he has evolved as a coach and learned how better to deal with players.
Gaudreau, the team's highest-paid player and biggest star, said he has so far had “great interactions” with Babcock, including showing each other family photos.
"I think the approach he took was getting to know each other on a personal level," Gaudreau said. “He got to see pictures of my daughter, my dog, my mom, my dad, pictures of me playing softball in the summer, a picture of my late grandmother who passed away two months ago. We got to chat about that for a little bit. I just think it was a really cool and unique way of getting to know your player.”
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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press