Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch dropped the hammer on the Flint Firebirds and their impulsive, petulant owner Rolf Nilsen on Thursday.
After the Firebirds fired coaches John Gruden and Dave Karpa for the second time this season, Branch announced that the OHL has suspended Nilsen, Firebirds management and the new coaches that were put in place on Wednesday – including the new head coach Sergei Kharin, who is also the director of hockey operations.
From the OHL:
The Ontario League takes the health and well being of our players very seriously. The recent actions by the owner of the Flint Firebirds Rolf Nilsen and his representatives on the management team and coaching staff is of great concern as they pose a serious threat to our commitment to our players and their families.
The league announces the following sanctions effective immediately:
Mr Nilsen and his appointees on the management and coaching staff including Sergei Kharin are suspended from Flint Firebirds’ hockey operations until further notice;
The Flint Firebirds at their cost, under the direction of the League, shall provide counselling services for players;
Rolf Nilsen and representatives of the Flint Firebirds shall co-operate with the Commissioner and the League in investigations into the conduct and actions of the Flint Firebirds and its representatives, employees, officers and directors;
In addition, the League will continue to investigate the actions of Rolf Nilsen and other representatives of the Flint Firebirds and will take any action and impose any sanctions that are deemed appropriate by the Commissioner.
Later today, the League will be meeting with the players in Flint to further discuss the situation, and to ensure that they are provided the appropriate supports. These discussions and supports will be ongoing for the players and their families.
Gruden and Karpa were originally fired on Nov. 8 after a win against the Oshawa Generals. The primary motivator? Hakon Nilsen, the owner’s son, wasn’t getting enough playing time.
That caused the entire Firebirds roster (and Hakon Nilsen) to turn in their jerseys, pack their bags and quit the team.
One day later, after the story had gotten international attention, the Firebirds rehired the coaches with new three-year contracts.
After the coaches were fired a second time, the players ran practice.
Much more as this develops, including the question we’re all asking: To paraphrase SLAP SHOT, which this situation makes look positively boring by comparison: “Who own da Firebirds?”