Mike Babcock’s resignation and its possible significance for the future of NHL coaching

Today’s NHL News follows up with the situation in Columbus, where Mike Babcock recently resigned because of inappropriate conduct, creating a press relations nightmare for the NHL. But, will the league and its teams learn from this latest incident? 

Last week, the NHL community was abuzz with news that former Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Mike Babcock was again inappropriate with his players in meetings. Although, at first, it was just speculation based on what Paul Bissonnette heard from players. 

As one of the main guys on the podcast Spittin’ Chicklets, he went public with this information, and social media erupted with various stories of Babcock’s behavior with former teams like the Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, and Toronto Maple Leafs. Unfortunately, the NHLPA had to get involved and launch an investigation, ultimately leading to Babcock stepping down on Monday afternoon.

However, the situation does not appear to be over, with Bussionnette announcing on Tuesday that the information known to the public is only half of it, and the worst is yet to come. Realistically, this entire situation is another black eye for the NHL, and on the eve of a new season, this breaking news couldn’t come at a worse time. 

Controversial head coaches getting second chances leads to more media disasters

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets announce Mike Babcock as Head Coach
Jul 1, 2023; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets introduce Mike Babcock, center, as their new head coach during a press conference at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Robertson-USA TODAY NETWORK

Babcock last coached in the NHL with the Maple Leafs in 2019-20, where stories eventually revealed that he mistreated Mitch Marner, one of the franchise’s best players. Despite this incident not being the first time such an incident occurred, one of the game’s best coaches has a bad reputation regarding his personality and how he conducts himself in the dressing room. 

Although Babcock has a 700-418-19 record in 1,301 games behind an NHL bench, it is doubtful after this recent incident in Columbus that he will ever return to the league in any capacity. During his brief time away, he led the University of Saskatchewan Huskies to a 14-9 record before announcing his retirement from coaching in early 2022. 

However, Babcock’s time on the sidelines was short-lived, accepting the head coaching position with the Blue Jackets, who finished 31st in the league standings last year. Even though many in the hockey community were puzzled by the organization’s decision to bring him back, after the initial hiring, things calmed down, and the topic got buried in the news cycle. 

However, Babcock’s name couldn’t stay out of the headlines for long, eventually finding himself associated with another former NHL coach, Bill Peters, hired by the WHL’s Lethbridge Broncos this summer. Sadly, these two coaches have a checkered past, but both were able to return to professional coaching without facing any significant repercussions for past actions. 

Furthermore, former head coach Joel Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman recently met with NHL officials to work their way back into the league. Unlike Babcock’s mistreatment of players and Peter’s treatment of Akim Aliu, Quenneville and Bowman did nothing about a sexual assault of Kyle Beach during their tenure with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Unfortunately, the situation in Columbus didn’t go as planned and turned into a nightmare for the Blue Jackets franchise and the NHL. Most head coaches at the NHL level cycle between cities when they need a new job, leaving many outsiders to believe that the coaching fraternity is just an “old boys club,” which is why Babcock and Peters got second chances, and Quenneville is looking for his. 

Society pressures are changing the culture of hockey every day now

Decades ago, before the NHLPA, players had little to no power and did whatever the owners and coaches said. Of course, there are hundreds of stories about the Original Six Days and the mistreatment of superstars of the era. Now that everyone has a voice and social media is just one of the ways to express yourself, there is little to nothing that gets swept under the rug anymore. 

Ultimately, several players in Columbus were uncomfortable with this situation, and despite what the general public believed, it was inappropriate and led to a significant change in the NHL. Interestingly, this is the latest in many hockey scandals, finally becoming public knowledge. 

Unfortunately, this won’t be the end of the situation in Columbus, and it won’t be the last inappropriate thing we hear about what goes on behind closed doors in arenas around the world. However, with knowledge becoming transparent in a digital age when nothing is genuinely secret anymore, we are one step closer to getting all the bad things out of the game and changing people’s perception of hockey’s culture.