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History behind Mike Commodore’s bad blood with Mike Babcock

Everyone by now knows the history of bad blood between former Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and former NHL player Mike Commodore. The latter took to twitter upon Babcock’s firing by Toronto earlier this week expressing pure joy, and followed up with a few more jabs.

But how did this all start?

Take a look back at the history between the two.

Commodore talks about his history with Babcock
To be honest… Did I have a good career? Yeah. Have I done more than most people have expected of me? Probably, yeah. Am I happy with how it ended the last three years? No. I’m very disappointed with how the last three years ended. I’m not even going to count last year. I’m very disappointed with how my last year in Columbus went and with my year in Detroit. I feel I was treated piss poor; I was thrown off the team in Columbus because I was single and I was making a lot of money. The coach was jealous because he played a lot of years, he had a wife and kids and he felt he didn’t earn a lot of money so he booted me off the team. The next year he started doing the same to Derick Brassard but he got fired before he could finish it.

So, after that I got bought out, and when you get bought out that’s like… I won’t say you can’t come back from it, you can, but usually you’ve got one chance. If it doesn’t work, you’re done. I got bought out on July 1st; I didn’t think I would get any contract, nothing. Fifteen minutes into free agency my agent calls me and tells me that Detroit called. They offered me a contract. I had a bad history with Mike Babcock, I didn’t want to have anything to do with him. He tried and succeeded in burying me in the minors in my third pro year, but I got out of it. I wanted nothing to do with him.

They offered me a one year deal worth one million. My gut was screaming: “Don’t take it, you’ve got one chance, if it doesn’t go well, you’re done in the NHL!”

I told my agent: “I don’t want to play in Detroit for Mike Babcock, I don’t trust him. Call him back and tell him thank you, we’ll get back to you”. My agent then told me the GM put a 15 minute time limit on the offer. I needed to make up my mind in 15 minutes or he was gonna pull the offer off the table. This was July 1st, free agency had just started 10 minutes prior. I called the GM and told him: “Ken, Mike Commodore here, I like you, you’re a good guy. Is it you who wants me or the coach? “. Ken Holland said that he wanted me and so did Babcock. So I told him that I would love to play for Ken, and I would love to play for the red wings, but that I didn’t trust the coach from previous experience. So I called the coach, by now I had 10 minutes left. I called him: “Babs, Mike Commodore here. Please be honest with me, do you want me on your hockey team or not?“ He said he did. I wanted to know if I’d get an opportunity. I told him I am not looking for anything special, but that I needed to know if I was gonna get a fair shot and a chance to play. He said “I want you on my team. You will get a fair chance. We need someone physical on the back end with a right shot. I want you. You will play”.

I hung up the phone, five minutes left. My gut screamed “Say No!” This coach screwed me over nine years ago. He buried me in the paper after I had a good camp in Anaheim. He buried me so I would look bad so he could then play his boy from juniors who was an undrafted rookie at camp that year…Kurt Sauer. 6 years later when I finally had a chance to take a shot back at him publicly I did so in the paper when I was in Columbus. But then I started to think about Detroit, a good team, always makes the playoffs, get to play with great players,and about maybe getting the opportunity. So I took Mike Babcock’s word and I signed the contract, thirty minutes into free agency. I signed the fucking contract faster than when I was a “hot commodity” four years earlier. I was one of the first players gone that year in free agency. Off the board July 1st.

I went to camp in Detroit, and got scratched out. I did injure my knee a bit so I missed couple of days in camp and the first four games. I got back as if it was nothing major. I came back, and the team won its first five games. I got scratched, but okay, the team was winning. We lost seven in a row, then I wasn’t even close to playing. Scratch, scratch. Finally, it was mid-November, Ian White got a puck to the face and was going to miss a week, we went on a road trip. A four-game road trip, and I thought to myself that this was my chance. I played three games, no two games, I think, three minutes a night… The only time I touched the ice was when the fourth line was on, and the faceoff was in the neutral zone. I was opening the doors for Lidström, that’s all I was doing, being a cheerleader.

Bab then met with me, said he was calling up guys from minors, and scratched me until Christmas. Then the GM forced the coach to play me; I played fifteen games, I fought, I played the best I could with the ice time I was getting. And then I got traded (to Tampa) because Ken Holland felt bad. He’s a good guy. He got me out of Detroit because Babcock was trying to end my career. The GM of Tampa is Steve Yzerman, and I got traded for nothing. Yzerman took me, Tampa was good; we were five points out of the playoffs. Guy Boucher talked with me, and he said that as long as we were close to a playoff spot I’d be playing. If we fell out of the playoff zone, they’d be playing two younger defensemen. I ended playing up 11 games. We were in it, then lost a couple in a row and fell out of it. I played in the last game of the year as a thank you in Winnipeg.

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

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