Former Red Wings and Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock spoke with The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun in what was going to be inevitable–a “tell-all” interview about his perceived misdeeds as the now-NBC Sports analyst rehabilitates his image–and he addressed Johan Franzen’s accusations that Babcock’s rough treatment caused permanent psychological damage:
“(Franzen) had unbelievable years in Detroit,’’ Babcock said. “He was a big man with great hands. When he first came here, we thought he was a checker and he turned himself into an unbelievable player.
“When a player that you’ve coached says that about you, it stings you big time. But not only does it sting for that, if you’ve been involved with mental health like I have …’”
Babcock has been an advocate for mental health awareness, beginning after a young man his family knew in Saskatchewan took his own life. Over the years, Babcock has lent his voice to the cause, participating in the Bell Let’s Talk campaign. So to have Franzen feel that way about him, it hurt deeply.
“Can you imagine having someone say that about you when you have been involved in mental health as much as I have? Now, I’ve reached out to (Franzen). That’s not going to make anything go away.
“It doesn’t matter what I perceive. When you’re talking about this kind of thing, if the person — whether it’s a co-worker, your spouse, your student — if they think that’s the environment, that’s what they’re feeling. Now, I sure wish I would have known about that then. And I could have done something about that. Besides apologize, there’s not much I can do about that now. But does it sting? Does it hurt? Absolutely.’’