Columbus Blue Jackets Await NHL and NHLPA Verdict on Mike Babcock’s Phone Privacy Matter

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. ― The Columbus Blue Jackets, like the rest of the NHL community, are awaiting the conclusion of the Mike Babcock “family photos” controversy that cropped up this week.

According to the NHL Players’ Association, which met with NHL officials Friday in New York, a review process is ongoing regarding allegations made Tuesday that Babcock, 60, invaded players’ privacy by asking to see photos stored on their phones.

“NHLPA officials Marty Walsh, Ron Hainsey and Don Zavelo met with the NHL earlier today at the league’s New York City office regarding the matter involving Mike Babcock,” the NHLPA said in a statement Friday. “During this meeting, we provided the NHL with an update on our ongoing review. We do not have any further comment at this time.”

The NHL hasn’t issued a statement about the situation.

That means less than a week before training camp opens the Blue Jackets are in a holding pattern waiting for any results or recommendations from separate inquiries conducted by the NHL and NHLPA.

Jul 1, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, United States; Columbus Blue Jackets name Mike Babcock as their new head coach during a press conference at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Robertson-The Columbus Dispatch

“We’ve had discussions,” Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said. “We’re trying to digest things and go from there. There’s nothing further to say.”

The accusations were made by former NHL player and TNT studio analyst Paul Bissonnette, a “Spittin Chiclets Podcast” co-host. Citing an undisclosed NHL player’s text message regarding Babcock going through photos on Blue Jackets players’ phones during individual meetings, Bissonnette’s report ignited a firestorm across the league.

Babcock’s hiring July 1, meanwhile, set off alarms across the league stemming from complaints about “bullying” behavior during prior coaching stints with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings. He has said he had learned more about personal interactions during a four-year absence from the NHL, particularly while coaching one season at the University of Saskatchewan.

Hours after the podcast’s release Tuesday, the Blue Jackets issued statements from Babcock and captain Boone Jenner that attempted to dispute and explain the context behind the coach’s request to see players’ stored phone photos of their family or things important to them. Jenner’s meeting with Babcock was cited by Bissonnette on the podcast.

Jenner and Babcock also reached out to media outlets to issue explanations and push back against the allegations. Bissonnette and co-host Ryan Whitney, also a former NHL player, didn’t back off their versions of events, which they said were relayed to them by “a ton” of NHL players.

Jenner wasn’t the only Blue Jackets player to say the accusations were blown out of proportion. Johnny Gaudreau and Zach Werenski echoed Jenner’s sentiments.

Babcock watched the Blue Jackets’ first game of the Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament on Thursday in Traverse City, Michigan, a 7-3 victory. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen and most of the team’s hockey operations leadership ground attended, too.

The Blue Jackets are scheduled to go through medical evaluations Wednesday and get on the ice to start training camp Thursday in Columbus. It’s unclear whether the Babcock situation will be resolved by that point.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Blue Jackets monitoring reviews on Mike Babcock phone privacy issue

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