Chelios Says Mike Babcock 'Verbally Assaulted' Johan Franzen

The attack triggered a "nervous breakdown" for Franzen.

97.1 The Ticket
December 02, 2019 - 2:18 pm

Gregory Shamus / Stringer


Mike Babcock's reputation is falling apart, one story at a time. 

Here's the most recent: Babcock "verbally assaulted" struggling Red Wings forward Johan Franzen during a game in the 2012 playoffs, causing Franzen to suffer a "nervous breakdown," according to Chris Chelios. Franzen retired in 2015 after suffering numerous concussions and batting post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

Chelios shared the story on the Spittin' Chiclets podcast with former NHL players Paul Bissonnette and Ryan Whitney. 

“Some of the things (Babcock) said to him on the bench -- I don’t know what he said to him behind closed doors one-on-one -- but he blatantly verbally assaulted him during the game on the bench,” Chelios said. “It got to the point where poor Johan -- no one really knew he was suffering with the concussion thing and the depression thing -- he just broke down and had a nervous breakdown, not only on the bench but after the game in one of the rooms in Nashville."

On the topic of coaches abusing players, Chelios said, "That was probably the worst thing I’ve ever seen." 

The Red Wings lost the first-round series to Nashville, 4-1. 

At the time, Chelios was a member of the Red Wings' front office, after playing for Babcock for four seasons in Detroit. He said the leaders of the team would bring their grievances about Babcock to then-general manager Ken Holland, echoing former Red Wing Carlo Colaiacovo who said last week the veterans tried to get Babcock fired every year.

But Holland stood behind his coach. 

“Ken Holland came down to the room and gave a speech and supported Mike Babcock. It was a great speech, but it was to tell everybody in the room, ‘If you don’t like it, you could be traded. Come up and see me and get traded.' And that’s the way that ended," Chelios said. 

Babcock was fired last month by the Maple Leafs, and stories have since swirled about his questionable tactics behind the bench.