Mike Babcock says he wasn’t surprised when he was fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs in November 2019, and that he had a hunch it was coming after seeing Lou Lamoriello leave the organization.
“It wasn’t shocking to me. I knew when Lou left, I was getting fired,” Babcock said in an interview with Christine Simpson, which will air during Wednesday Night Hockey on Sportsnet ahead of a game between the Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames. “… The bottom line is, I really believe it’s important that every general manager and every coach have their manager and their coach, their guy. And that wasn’t me.”
Babcock was fired by the Maple Leafs 18 months after Lamoriello left the club to join the New York Islanders. Kyle Dubas took over the manager role, eventually bringing in Sheldon Keefe as head coach.
In the time since his parting with the Leafs, some of Babcock’s coaching tactics have come under renewed scrutiny as players have spoken out about the verbal abuse they received from the coach.
The most high-profile incident involved Mitch Marner during his rookie season with the Maple Leafs. As first reported by Terry Koshan of Postmedia, Babcock “was alleged to have asked one of the Leafs’ rookies to list the players on the team from hardest-working to those who, in the eyes of the rookie, didn’t have a strong work ethic.” Koshan reported at the time that Babcock “told the players who had been listed at the bottom” about Marner’s ranking.
Shortly after Koshan’s story broke, Babcock released a statement to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that said he had apologized to Marner and that the situation “ended up not being a good idea.” Marner later called the situation “unfortunate” and confirmed Babcock did apologize.
In his interview with Simpson, Babcock attempted to explain his perspective on the Marner incident.
According to Babcock, the list wasn’t made public to the entire team as was reported, but only to Tyler Bozak. However, he acknowledged he was at fault for the incident regardless.
“As soon as I did it, I knew I had done the wrong thing,” he told Simpson. “… Was it wrong? Yes. Was it my fault? A hundred per cent. Do I own that? Yeah. But if you think it’s a tactic to haze a guy or something, that’s the craziest thing ever.”
You can watch the entire interview with Babcock during the pre-game show for Wednesday Night Hockey ahead of the Maple Leafs’ game meeting with the Flames. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET/ 3:30 p.m. PT on Sportsnet.