Today, former Detroit Red Wings executive and coach Chris Chelios went on the Spittin Chiclets podcast and was asked about Mike Babcock. A Twitter user, unrelated to the podcast or the host site (Barstool Sports, which I will not link to), posted this excerpt:
Babcock verbally assaulted Johan Franzen on the bench, causing Franzen a nervous break down pic.twitter.com/KBU3Qf5q7B— Peter Andrianopoulos (@peterandri) December 2, 2019
Later on Monday, Expressen posted a short interview with Johan Franzen where he backed up Chelios’s story about Babcock.
As quoted in Expressen, and as you can hear above, Chelios said:
It got to the point with poor Johan, no one really knowing that he was suffering with the concussion thing and the depression thing, he just broke down. He had a nervous breakdown. Not only on the bench but in one of the rooms after the game. It’s probably the worst I’ve ever seen.
Franzen recalled the event for Expressen (translation by Google, helped along by me)
I get shivers when I think about it. That was against Nashville in the playoffs. It was rough, nasty and shocking. But that was just one of a hundred things he did. The tip of an iceberg
They then continue with the following:
How would you describe Babcock as a coach and person?
“As a coach he is extremely accurate and prepared. He is great at putting together a playing system and getting everyone to buy into it. That’s his strong side.
“But then he’s a terrible man, the worst person I’ve ever met. A bully who had a go at people, it could be cleaners in the Detroit arena or anyone. He jumped on people just because.”
Do you remember when it started?
“He was on a couple of other players before. The good team players. Those who don’t say that much. When they left, that energy passed to me, and then I had to take a turn. It was verbal attacks, terrible things he said.
Johan Franzén does not go into exactly what has been said. But that [Babcock’s] words affected [him], there is no doubt about that.
“From 2011, I was terrified of being in the arena. I just focused on getting up in the mornings. It was then that he had a go at me for the first time and last year was the first time I naturally slept for the first time since then,” he says.
The nightmares return. More than often.
“It was only his verbal attacks that played out in my head. Every day. But I got good help with those obsessions for three weeks at a center in Colorado last year. It was me and a group of veterans from the military who also suffered from concussions and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).”
Johan Franzén describes a hockey coach with two faces.
“He was a specialist in managing the media. He creates teams that are very difficult to beat, you can’t take that away from him. But he makes his players very anxious, they are terrified of making mistakes and his team rarely makes it past the first playoff round.”
How do you feel when things come to the surface now?
“He will surely get a new assignment. But hopefully his behaviour may calm down so it affects less in the future,” says Johan Franzén.
The incident Chelios and Franzen are referring to is the 2012 playoffs where Detroit fell to Nashville in the first round in five games. At that time Babcock was coach with Jeff Blashill and Bill Peters as assistants. Chris Chelios was a Senior Advisor to Hockey Operations under General Manager Ken Holland, a post he held for several years after that to 2015. The following year, Chelios was an assistant coach to Blashill as Franzen attempted to play for one last time before he was listed as permanently injured and on LTIR for the remainder of his contract.
In 2018, Franzen detailed the long-term effects of concussions and depression in an interview with Expressen. There is a shorter English version available. He never discusses Babcock or that season in that article, but does say his 2015 concussion was not the first or the start of his problems.