The recent episode with Mike Babcock again abusing his power over players brought back a personal memory from a press-box conversation with Hall of Fame defenseman Chris Chelios about the latter days of his Detroit Red Wings career playing for Babcock.
“Remember that season when I was the seventh defenseman in Detroit?” Chelios asked of the 2008-09 campaign, his final one with the Red Wings. “Then two defensemen got hurt, and I was still the seventh defenseman.”
With this latest instance of Babcock utilizing his power over his players costing him his job in Columbus before he ever coached a single Blue Jackets game, a number of Babcock’s former players are recalling their experiences dealing with the personal hell Babcock could bring into a player’s life.
Chelios is one. He spoke about Babcock on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast.
“It’s just so unnecessary the things that he did to players and how awkward and uncomfortable it could be,” Chelios said. “There are too many good people in hockey who have to put up with someone like him.”
“That fact that he’s gone now…it’ll make them stronger”
Chris Chelios joined the show to discuss the Babcock situation and how this will affect the Blue Jackets moving forward.
— Spittin' Chiclets (@spittinchiclets) September 19, 2023
Specifically, Chelios was citing the torment that Babcock unleashed upon Red Wings forward Johan Franzen.
“What (Babcock) put that poor kid through when he was suffering through the concussion thing,” Chelios recalled. “Literally, he was calling him into his office once a week to call him a fat pig and say that your teammates hate you and why don’t you just quit?”
Former Red Wings D Kindl Also Speaking Out
Defenseman Jakub Kindl also spent plenty of time in Babcock’s doghouse while in Detroit. He’s also choosing to speak out in his homeland. Kindl penned a first-person essay on his NHL career for the Czech website bezfrazi.cz. In it, he touches on his torment at the hands of Babcock.
“Even when I was drafted, Babcock asked the scouts what kind of player I was,” Kindl wrote.”‘Something like Martin Škoula from Colorado,’ they said. ‘Oh, Jesus,’ was his reaction.
“I wasn’t his favorite player from the beginning, and even though (Red Wings GM Ken) Holland liked me, Babcock seemed to constantly test what I could handle and he let me know that he didn’t like me as a player. I couldn’t stand him as a person.
“(He’d be) making jokes with the others, but with me, he barely exchanged a few words. If he did, it was to humiliate me. For example, he once put me on the right side of the defense, and I was looking at the lineup in disbelief. He was just passing by and heard me, so he looked at the lineup. He said, ‘Yeah, you’re on the right side. You have trouble playing on the left, and I’m making it harder for you, right?’ He erased it and put me back on the left.”
In Babcock’s first season as coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kindl was the scorer of a overtime winner for Detroit against Toronto.
“That evening, I received a lot of messages from people all over the club,” Kindl recalled. “From chefs, guys who parked our cars, facility personnel, and from the people who worked in offices. They all congratulated me.”