If you're familiar with former Red Wings defenseman Mike Commodore, you probably know he feels a certain way about Mike Babcock.
"When I hear Mike Babcock, the first thing that comes through my mind is, piece of sh*t," Commodore told 97.1 The Ticket's podcast The Time That.
"If I could legitimately hurt him and get away with it, I would consider doing it," Commodore joked (sort of). "But it’s not worth jail time. It would be a potential fist fight, for sure. I’d let him get the first one in just so I don’t get in trouble, and then it’s on."
"We’re not even making it off the first tee," Commodore said. "I hope I never see that guy for the rest of my life. That would be a good thing. He is not a person that I want anybody I like to meet. He is a sc*mbag. But if that did happen ... I would have a very hard time keeping it together. With his ego, he would definitely say something, and to be honest, I would fly off the fuc*ing handle. I would have no control.
"I’m not saying I’m the toughest guy in the world, but I’m telling you right now, I would kick the sh*t out of that guy."
Okay, let's back up.
It's early in Commodore's career, the summer of 2002, and he's just been traded by the Devils to the Ducks. Babcock is entering his first season as Ducks head coach. He calls Commodore to tell him to show up to training camp in shape. Sounds good, Commodore says.
"I don’t know who Mike Babcock is. I've never heard of him, I’ve never had a run in with him, nothing. There’s no previous history whatsoever. I show up to camp, fight everybody in camp, I’m supposed to play (when the season starts). I’m penciled in, but he has someone else he wants to play. Sends me down to the minors, carves me in the papers, says I showed up out of shape. I swear to god, I never showed up out of shape because I wasn't talented enough to do it. I would have been in the East Coast League and done in, like, two years. ... I was never able to get rid of that reputation, like, 'The guy doesn’t work out,' because he want to the fu*king paper and said that. I read it. I’m like, are you fuc*ing kidding me?"
So Commodore, who played 57 games for the Devils over the prior two seasons, spends the bulk of the year with Anaheim's AHL team in Cincinnati. He thinks he's finally getting his shot midway through that season when the Ducks visit the Blue Jackets and give him a call. And this is where his relationship with Babcock really goes south.
"They called me up and did a fat test on me. I’m not even playing in the game. They do a fat test on me, a pinch test. For anybody that's done that test, it's very subjective. Somebody that you put on the front of a magazine that’s ripped out of their mind, you can make them, like, five percent body fat. You just grab the three points where there’s a little bit of extra skin.
"I’ve been playing four or five nights (a week) the whole first half of the year, I’m in great shape. I’m the exact same body weight, if not lighter, than I was in training camp. I was always around 10, 11 percent body fat. They do this fat test and I’m 22 percent body fat. It was a brand new strength coach, and he’s like, 'Hey, I gotta fire this in.' So he hands it in to Babs, and Babs waits and gives it to me in front of the team. I don’t know any of these guys. So I told him to go fu*k himself. I’m like, 'You know what, fu*k you. Your test is fu*ked. Let’s go do a real test. I'm not fuc*ing 22 percent body fat, fu*k you.' And that’s when I was done in Anaheim."
You don't say.
The Ducks trade Commodore to Calgary in March, and by the start of the 2005-06 campaign he's in Carolina. He plays a key role on the Hurricanes' Cup-winning team that season and flourishes the year after that. When he hits free agency in 2008, he lands a five-year, $18.75 million contract with the Blue Jackets. But Columbus makes a coaching change three years later and buys out the rest of Commodore's contract. He winds up back on the free agent market in 2011 with considerably fewer suitors. He doesn't expect any teams to call until sometime in August.
On the morning of July 1, five minutes into free agency, his phone rings. The Red Wings have an offer: 1 year, $1 million. Commodore is friendly with then-GM Ken Holland. He's always wanted to play for the Wings. It's the perfect scenario, except for one tiny detail: Babcock. So Commodore calls his agent and says, "No fuc*ing way. I'm not going to Detroit." His agent tells him he has 15 minutes to make up his mind for sure. Then Detroit's taking the offer off the table.
"I'm like, you gotta be fuc*ing kidding me. 15 minutes, free agency just started. Even if another team kind of likes me they’re not even thinking about calling me for like, two weeks. So I hang up the phone, call Ken Holland and I'm like, 'I would love to play for you. I would love to play in Detroit. I always enjoyed going in, even when we got our asses kicked. I love the city, I think Joe Louis is awesome. You always make the playoffs. I would like to play there. But you what I think about Babcock. We had beers at your golf tournament and I was fuc*ing ripping on him. You know what I think of him. Does he want me on the team or not?'"
"So I call that piece of sh*t, and now I’ve got like 10 minutes left. He’s like, 'Hey, Commy.' I didn’t say this, but I'm like, don’t call me 'Commy,' you piece of sh*t. We’re not friends. And I’m like, 'Mike, please be honest with me. Do you want me on your hockey team or not? If you don’t, if you're just getting me in here because you want to fu*k me over and end my career, please be honest with me. I just won’t sign. I won’t say anything, no hard feelings. But I know this is my last chance. I need to know wherever I go that I’m going to get an opportunity.'"
We need you, Babcock tells him. We need a physical presence. We need a right-handed defenseman to play with Lidstrom.
"I’m like, 'Mike, please. I understand this is my last chance. Please be honest with me. I asked him again, 'Do you want me on your team? Am I going to get a decent opportunity? I don’t need to get fuc*ed right away.' He’s like, 'I want you on my team.' I hang up the phone, call my agent and I'm like, 'This guy’s going to fu*k me, for sure.'
"He’s like, 'Well, Detroit is going to make the playoffs, you’re going to get an opportunity. I think you should take him at his word.' And then I’m thinking, 'Well, I get to play with Nick Lidstrom, literally all I would have to do is go D to D all year and that’d be 35, 40 points. I’m back (in free agency), maybe another five year deal, I’m rolling again.' That’s what’s going through my head. So I'm sitting there, I got a couple minutes left, and I’m like, you know what, I'm going to take this guy at his word and sign there."
So Commodore signs, gets hurt in training camp, misses the first couple games of the year and then doesn't crack the lineup when he's healthy. One scratch after another.
"I’m like, this motherfu*ker. It’s happening. I just got bought out, I have zero leverage. What am I going to do, go to the media? Nobody gives a sh*t. So for the first three weeks I was miserable. I was pissed off. And after that I was like, you know what, this guy isn't going to dictate how I live my life. Fu*k him. He doesn’t want to play me, fine. Don’t play me. I’m going to come to the rink, I’m going to run the stairs, I'm going to practice as hard as he’ll let me, because he would always blow drills down when it was my turn. I’m going to go one on one versus Pav, he likes doing that in the neutral zone along the boards. I’m going to do that and then I’m going to plan the parties. I’m going to be a good guy to be around and I’m going to have fun, so that’s what I ended up doing."
Commodore's first game comes in November, a total trainwreck, as he recalls. He winds up playing 17 games total, about 11 minutes a night, before he's shipped to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline.
"Complete disaster. Career over."
And there you have it.
While Commodore's disdain for Babcock, the ninth-winningest coach in NHL history, is obviously extreme, he says he's not alone.
"Everybody that I know that’s ran into Mike Babcock, that has had the misfortune of either playing for him or dealing with him or being at Joe Louis Arena with him back in the day, hates his guts," Commodore said. "The guy is a piece of sh*t that treats people terribly. His ego, I haven’t met him since he signed that deal in Toronto, so I can’t even imagine how big his fuc*ing ego is now."
As for why Babcock seemed to have it out for Commodore in particular, Commodore swears he doesn't know.
"I’ve thought about it. In Anaheim I’m like, 'Why the fu*k does this guy fuc*ing hate me? I don’t know him, I don’t know any of his friends, I’m not from the same area that he’s from. I have nothing to do with this guy. I have no idea why this guy doesn’t like me.' To be honest, I have no idea. He got me in Detroit the second time just to fuc*ing end my career, that was blatantly obvious. But honeslty I think he just likes fuc*ing people over."
Babcock is a notoriously demanding coach who can wear on his players. By the end of his tenure in Detroit, even the veterans on the roster were said to be happy to see him go. But that's not the issue, according to Commodore.
"It's not like, oh, he’s a tough coach and he’s hard on you. I played for coaches that were hard on me and I actually enjoyed that. It has nothing to do with that. He’s full of sh*t, he’s a liar, he’s selfish, his arrogance is off the charts. He thinks everything is about him.
"His favorite time of the day is when the media comes rolling in there. He will never miss a fuc*ing press conference because now he thinks everybody in Toronto is showing up and, ‘Oh, it’s about me. They’re not here to watch the players, they’re here to watch me. I’m the man.' Honestly, the easiest way to put it is how he treats people. If he doesn’t think that you can do something for him, he will treat you like a piece of sh*t."
So, just to get this straight, a piece of shi*t?