Former Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios said coach Mike Babcock “verbally assaulted” Johan Franzen during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs when the Red Wings faced the Nashville Predators, causing Franzen to have a "nervous breakdown."
Franzen, in an interview with the Swedish newspaper Expressen on Monday, confirmed the encounter, saying "I get shivers when I think about it. ... It was coarse, nasty and shocking. But that was just one out of a hundred things he did. The tip of the iceberg."
Franzen called Babcock "extremely meticulous and well prepared" as a coach, but a "terrible person, the worst I have ever met. He's a bully who was attacking people ..."
Chelios made the claims during a recent appearance on the Spittin’ Chiclets podcast.
Franzen, who suffered from numerous concussions, retired in 2015 after 11 seasons, and has battled post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
Chelios was part of the Wings’ front office at the time of the alleged incident, having ended a 26-season NHL career in 2010, which included nearly 10 seasons in Detroit.
“Some of the things he (Babcock) said to him (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.”
Chelios didn’t explain why or what Babcock was angry about, of what specifically sparked the alleged incident. Franzen had one point (a goal) in the Western Conference quarterfinals series won by the Predators, 4-1.
In his interview with Expressen, Franzen said he was "terrified of being at the rink" starting in 2011.
"He would lay into a couple of the other players," Franzen told the newspaper. "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."
Chelios said the leadership group of Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg talked about Babcock’s heavy-handed ways among themselves, and would contact then-general manager Ken Holland.
But, Chelios said, Holland backed Babcock. When asked Monday by The Detroit News whether any players came to him to report any abusive behavior from Babcock, Holland texted a response of “no.”
“Ken Holland came down to the room and gave a speech, and supported Mike Babcock,” Chelios said. “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.”