Updated: Oct 5
COLUMBUS- Mike Babcock has stepped down as the head coach of the Blue Jackets, the team announced Sunday afternoon.
Babcock was officially hired on July 1, after weeks of anticipation. The reaction was poor from a handful of former players, some of whom reported tactics of bullying and intimidation used by the former coach.
First reported by Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC), the 60-year-old resigned amid accusations of improperly viewing players’ cellphones.
“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,” said Blue Jackets General Manager and Alternate Governor Jarmo Kekalainen. “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.”
Mike Babcock released a statement of his own through the team.
“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,” said Babcock. “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.”
Babcock, along with Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner, originally denied any wrongdoing in a team-issued statement made on September 12.
The National Hockey League Players Association launched an investigation shortly after the accusations. They talked to plenty of players, reportedly also ones that played for him in Toronto.
When Paul Bissonnette made the original accusation on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast that Mike Babcock had been asking players to share personal pictures with him on his office television, most Blue Jacket fans (including yours truly) were extremely skeptical. After the Blue Jackets released their statement, it is fair to say that many felt it was water under the bridge and that the team would be able to move forward and finally focus on their upcoming season.
Taking his place will be Pascal Vincent. The former assistant coach came to Columbus after nearly 10 years in the Winnipeg Jets organization. He was the head coach of the Manitoba Moose from 2016-2021 and won AHL coach of the year in the 2016-17 season.
Vincent agreed to terms on a two-year contract.
“This is a difficult day, but I am looking forward to this opportunity and appreciate the organization’s confidence in me to lead this team,” said Vincent. “We have a great group of guys that have been working very hard to prepare for the season. My focus will be to work with our staff to help them get better every day and be ready for what we believe will be an exciting season.”
The press conference for the new head coach will take place tomorrow, Monday, September 17th, at 12:30 p.m. It will be streamed live on the Blue Jackets YouTube channel.
The Blue Jackets open up the preseason on September 24 with a split-squad matchup against the Penguins. The first game will be in Pittsburgh at 1 p.m., followed by a 7 p.m. matchup back at Nationwide Arena.
-Ian Phillips (@ianphillips_9) for Yamo Media