Columbus Blue Jackets coach Mike Babcock, Boone Jenner dispute privacy violation accusation

Coach Mike Babcock hasn’t even gotten to his first Columbus Blue Jackets training camp before a new allegation surfaced that he invaded his player's privacy.

According to former NHL player and national TV analyst Paul Bissonnette of Barstool Sports’ “Spittin’ Chiclets Podcast,” Babcock called Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner into his office and asked to see his phone, so he could investigate his personal collection of photos.

“I get a text from a player,” Bissonnette said on a clip from the podcast shared on X, formerly known as Twitter. “He goes, ‘Have you heard what Babcock is up to again?’ And I’m like, ‘No.’ So, he gets to Columbus and one of the first things he does is he calls in Boone Jenner, the captain of the team, and he says, ‘Let me see the photos in your phone. I want to know the type of person you are.'"

After looking into the allegations Tuesday, the Blue Jackets released statements from Babcock and Jenner stating their versions of what happened. Both stated that Bissonnette's depiction wasn't delivered with proper context.

New Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Mike Babcock speaks to the media on July 1.
New Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Mike Babcock speaks to the media on July 1.

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“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 the statement. "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 echoed Babcock's sentiments.

“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 his 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.”

Attempts to contact other Blue Jackets players for comment or confirmation of the podcast's allegation were unsuccessful and the Dispatch has learned the NHL Players' Association is also reviewing the matter.

Jenner spoke with the Dispatch after releasing his statement and reiterated his view that what happened was taken out of context on the podcast.

“To have it blown out of proportion, completely out of proportion, is disappointing to me," Jenner said. "That was our first meeting, getting to know each other. It was a really good meeting and all the talks we’ve had since have been really good. So, we’re excited to get going here.”

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New Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Mike Babcock is introduced in a news conference.
New Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Mike Babcock is introduced in a news conference.

The Blue Jackets hired Babcock, 60, this past summer despite allegations of “bullying” players during his previous two NHL coaching stints with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings.

In Toronto, according to multiple reports, he asked Mitch Marner, a rookie forward in 2016-17, to create a rankings list of teammates based on his assessment of their work ethic and then showed the list to players without permission. In Detroit, Babcock was accused of berating Johan Franzen so badly during a playoff game in Nashville that it caused the former Red Wings forward to have what was described by defenseman Chris Chelios as a "mental breakdown” from "bullying" on the bench and inside a room near the visiting locker room at Bridgestone Arena.

Babcock said during his introductory news conference that he’d learned about dealing with younger athletes while acting as advisor for the University of Vermont’s men’s hockey team in 2020-21 and then coaching the University of Saskatchewan’s men’s team for one season (2021-22).

“I’m real fortunate,” he said. “My kids are 30, 28 and 26. I’ve been around my last couple opportunities with college kids, and it’s different, for sure. What I do know is, when you have 23 different guys on your team, you need 23 different ways to approach them. You need a communication plan with each one, a development plan with each one, you need a mental health plan with each one to have success. I couldn’t have said what I just said to you now 10 years ago, because I didn’t know that.”

Babcock was fired by the Maple Leafs in November 2019 and remained out of the NHL until the Blue Jackets announced his hiring on July 1 as Brad Larsen's replacement — after waiting for his contract with Toronto to officially expire.

Babcock reiterated that working at the collegiate level was an eye-opener.

“When you go to a university setting, they have all these experts in all these fields, right there,” he said. “They help you get better. I had some good relationships with people there (in Saskatchewan) and they teach you a lot about the way you communicate. I think it’s important that you continue to grow.”

The Blue Jackets are set to open the season with an annual trip to Northern Michigan for the Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament held Thursday through Sunday at Centre Ice Arena. The team’s NHL training camp begins next Tuesday with medical testing and performance evaluations followed by on-ice work Wednesday at the Ice Haus. Jenner doesn't think the photo request accusation on the podcast will be an impediment for the Blue Jackets starting out.

“No, we’re handling it today," he said. "I put out my statement and I want to move on, and I’m focused on getting going with hockey starting next Wednesday. That’s my focus and it’s going to stay there.”

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Blue Jackets' Mike Babcock denies privacy violation occurred