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NHL coach resigns amid investigation involving players' photos

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Mike Babcock agreed to begin the process for Babcock to step down as head coach effective immediately.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mike Babcock resigned as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday after word emerged earlier this week of him asking players to show him photos on their phones.

The team announced Babcock’s shocking departure in the aftermath of an investigation by the NHL Players’ Association into his conduct. Pascal Vincent has been named coach, signing a two-year contract through the 2024-25 season.

Former NHL player Paul Bissonnette reported on his podcast Tuesday that Babcock was asking players to show him photos and projecting them for others to see in an invasion of privacy. Babcock and captain Boone Jenner denied the report in a statement released by the team, saying it was just a way of the new coach getting to know players.

Still, the players union launched a review and updated the league Friday on its findings.

“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,” 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.”

 WATCH LIVE: Blue Jackets to address Mike Babcock’s resignation, introduce Pascal Vincent as new head coach 

Babcock’s conduct was under the microscope given his history of polarizing, old school coaching techniques, many of which came to light after he was fired by Toronto in 2019. This was his first NHL job since.

“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. “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, the 2008 Stanley Cup-winning coach with Detroit, said upon taking the Columbus job in July that he evolved as a coach and learned how better to deal with players after being fired by Toronto.

The club's ownership group, led by Majority Owner and Gov. John McConnell issued the following statement on Monday:

Our ownership group is deeply frustrated and disappointed by the events of the past week.  We have been in contact with John Davidson, Jarmo Kekalainen and our management team throughout this process and were in full agreement with Mike Babcock stepping down and Pascal Vincent leading our team as head coach. 

“We had candid conversations with our leadership after last season about our goals and expectations for growth and progress on the ice in 2023-24.  Those expectations are still in place and can still be achieved, so we do not anticipate further changes to our hockey leadership team at this time.  Additional disruptions would be detrimental to our players and coaches as they prepare for the opening of training camp in two days.  We will continue to have regular communications with our hockey leadership and are looking forward to an exciting season.”

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