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Columbus Blue Jackets leadership says hiring resigned coach Mike Babcock was 'misstep'

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Mike Babcock
Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Mike Babcock

Updated: Sept. 25, 2023, 6:23 PM ET

Columbus Blue Jackets leadership expressed their disappointment following the resignation of coach Mike Babcock less than three months after they hired him to lead the professional hockey team.

Babcock resigned Sunday following allegations he violated players' privacy by allegedly demanding to look through photos on their phones. Babcock hadn't even coached a single game as head coach and was first hired on July 1.

CBJ President of Hockey Operations John Davidson and General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen expressed their disappointment at Babcock's resignation at a press conference Monday.

Babcock is no stranger to controversy, yet the Blue Jackets pushed ahead with making Babcock the team's head coach following the firing of Brad Larsen, after the team went 25-48-9. Babcock has come under fire for conduct on other teams he has coached according to CBS Sports.

Now the team is being led by new head coach Pascal Vincent and its pre-season training camp is scheduled to start Wednesday.

Kekalainen said the team understood what hiring Babcock might mean and the dynamics of hiring a coach with a history of controversy. He said he now understands the criticism the team faced when hiring Babcock.

"We believe our players and everyone else inside and outside our organization should be treated with respect. All the time. Failing to live up to that standard is not acceptable. Are we perfect? No. Can we do better? Yes. And we will," Kekalainen said.

Davidson echoed Kekalainen and said the team made a mistake hiring Babcock.

No other change in team leadership is expected to happen, according to a statement from the Columbus Blue Jackets' ownership group, led by Majority Owner and Governor John P. McConnell, that was issued Monday.

“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,” part of the statement reads.

Kekelainen said the team is ready and excited to move on.

"Players love to play hockey. I think they would love to put this behind them and move forward and get to do again what they love to do, which is get on the ice and compete and win hockey games," Kekelainen said.

Vincent also addressed media on Monday and acknowledged the tough situation he is about to lead the team into this season. Vincent was signed to be head coach for the next two seasons after being an associate coach for the last two years.

"We've been facing some adversity. And as a team, as a person, as a coach, what do you do? You face it and you move on. And that's what we intend to do," Vincent said.

Corrected: September 18, 2023 at 6:24 PM EDT
An earlier version of this story said Babcock resigned on Saturday. He actually resigned a day later on Sunday.
George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.