Mike Babcock resigned Sunday as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets before coaching his first game with the team.
Babcock was under fire over allegations that he invaded players’ privacy in meetings over the summer, and the NHL Players’ Association opened an investigation.
Pascal Vincent was promoted from associate coach to head coach through the 2024-25 season.
Former NHL player turned podcast host and NHL TV analyst Paul Bissonnette reported that Babcock asked several Jackets players for their phones and displayed pictures via Airplay in Babcock’s office.
Babcock denied that he invaded the players’ privacy, saying it was part of a project to get to know each player better before the start of training camp, and that the players chose which pictures to show him.
Team captain Boone Jenner also released a statement defending Babcock and saying the issue was “blown out of proportion.”
The NHLPA sent executive director Marty Walsh and assistant executive director Ron Hainsey to visit Babcock in Columbus on Thursday as part of a fact-finding mission.
“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 a 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.”
“This was a difficult decision on everyone’s part, but one we felt necessary to ensure our focus remains on the players and the team’s upcoming season,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement. “On behalf of the entire Blue Jackets organization, we want to thank Mike for his hard work and the professionalism he has shown in working together on a plan to step down.”
Babcock, 60, spent time as head coach of the Anaheim Ducks (2002-04), Detroit Red Wings (2005-15) and Toronto Maple Leafs (2015-20). He led Detroit to the Stanley Cup in 2008.
Allegations of a toxic work environment surfaced early in the 2019-20 season, when he was fired by the Maple Leafs after a six-game losing streak. He spent one season as the hockey coach at the University of Saskatchewan after leaving Toronto.
Vincent, 51, will be a first-time NHL head coach. He joined the Columbus coaching staff in June 2021.