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Chelios: No veteran free agent wanted to play for Mike Babcock

Boy, talk about some serious accusations.

During an interview with 97.1 The Ticket’s Jeff Riger, former Detroit Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios didn’t hold back when he explained why he believed the Red Wings were having trouble luring free-agents to Hockeytown – it was because of former head coach Mike Babcock.

“No veteran free agent is going to want to come in and play for Mike Babcock,” Chelios explained. “I wanted to because I wanted to stay in Detroit, but no matter what I did — I tried so hard to win his heart over and I just couldn’t.”

The Hall-of-Fame defenseman played 10 years with the Red Wings (1999-2009) and was a part of two Stanley Cup winning teams (2002, 2008), the latter of which came under Babcock. But the former Wings bench boss had developed a reputation for being the opposite of a players coach, and that he could be tough to play for. Those sentiments certainly were echoed in Chelios’ comments.

Babcock left Detroit in 2015 to sign a lucrative deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are led in the front office by former Red Wings star Brendan Shanahan.

Now that Babcock has moved on, along with the team preparing to move to the brand new Little Caesars Arena next fall, Chelios thinks the Red Wings could begin landing the top talent they enjoyed during his years with the team.

“I think it’s going to help (moving to Little Caesars Arena) a lot and I think it’s going to help even more that Babs is gone because those free agents really didn’t want to play for Babs,” Chelios said. “It’s nothing personal, but he’s a tough guy to play for, especially for a veteran. If you’re a young guy I think it’s great because of his accountability and if you don’t play [hard] you’re not gonna play.”

“He didn’t like a lot of people.”

Likeable or not, the Toronto Maple Leafs are certainly glad to have him on board, as they’re challenging for a playoff spot while Detroit is poised to miss the playoffs for the first time in 26 years.

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Michael Whitaker
Michael Whitaker
Always at the front lines of Detroit Sports.

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