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Ex-Wing Johan Franzen calls Mike Babcock ‘the worst person I have ever met’

Ex-Wing Johan Franzen calls Mike Babcock ‘the worst person I have ever met’
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DETROIT—Former Red Wings forward Johan Franzen has told Swedish media that coach Mike Babcock is “the worst person I have ever met.”

In an interview with Expressen, Franzen described Babcock as a great coach, “but he’s a terrible person, the worst I ever met. He’s a bully who was attacking people. It could be a cleaner at the arena in Detroit or anybody. He would lay into people without any reason.”

Asked if a player ever came to him and accused Babcock of abusive behaviour, former Wings general manager Ken Holland told the Free Press: “No. The answer is no.”

Franzen also confirmed a story Chris Chelios revealed during Monday’s episode of the podcast Spittin’ Chiclets. The incident happened during Game 5 of the Wings’ 2012 playoff series against Nashville.

“Some of the things (Babcock) said to (Franzen) 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 knowing he was suffering with the concussion thing and the depression thing, he just broke down and had nervous breakdown, not only on the bench but after the game in one of the rooms in Nashville.

“It was probably one of the worst things I’ve ever seen.”

In a text message to the Free Press, Chelios said had no further comment. Babcock did not return a message requesting comment.

The incident still haunts Franzen, who was forced to retire in 2015 after repeated head injuries caused him to suffer from post-concussion syndrome. He and his family returned to their native Sweden this past summer.

“I get the shivers when I think about it,” Franzen told Expressen. “That incident occurred against Nashville in the playoffs. It was coarse, nasty and shocking. But that was just one out of a hundred things he did. The tip of the iceberg.

“He would lay into a couple of the other players — the nice team players, the guys who don’t say very much. When they left the team he went on to focus on me. It was verbal attacks. He said horrible things.”

Babcock coached the Wings from 2005-15. He left the Wings to coach the Maple Leafs and was fired last month after 41/2 seasons.

“From 2011 on, I was terrified of being at the rink,” Franzen said. “That’s when he got on me the first time. I just focused on getting out of bed every morning from that moment. Last year, I could sleep naturally for the first time since then.

“It was just his attacks, playing in my head, each and every day.”

Chelios said players let Holland know about the incident at Nashville, but Chelios mixed up his timeline.

“Ken Holland came down to the room and gave a speech and supported Mike Babcock,” Chelios said on the podcast. “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.”

Holland told the Free Press he talked to Chelios on Monday afternoon, and that Chelios admitted the incident he describes with Holland did not happen after the Nashville game. Chelios said he was in the locker room when Holland told players that if they had a problem with Babcock, they were welcome to address it with Holland in his office.

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Chelios last played for the Wings in 2009-10. He joined the organization as an adviser to Holland, and joined head coach Jeff Blashill’s coaching staff in June 2015.

“The situation Chelios described had nothing to do with Franzen,” Holland said. “They were separate situations. That happened after a game in San Jose, when someone had said something on a telecast about there being unrest in the locker room. I told players they could come to me if they had anything to say. No one did.”
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