OHL team owner suspended for five years, fined $250,000

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Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images
Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The Flint Firebirds’ inaugural season in the Ontario Hockey League was filled with plenty of drama off-the ice. That continued on Wednesday after league commissioner David Branch put the hammer down on team owner Rolf Nielsen.

Branch suspended Nielsen from involvement with the Firebirds for five years effective immediately and fined him $250,000 and took away Flint’s first-round pick (third overall) in Saturday’s OHL Priority Selection draft.

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The 2015-16 season saw Nielsen fire the same coaching staff twice, with the first prompting a team walk-out in November which was eventually settled. The OHL took over operating the Firebirds after the second set of dismissals in February.

Nielsen is eligible to apply for reinstatement in three years and any violation of these penalties would potentially see the league order him to sell 100-percent of his stake in the franchise. A new general manager and head coach will be hired in the near future with Joe Birch, who’s been running the show since February’s drama, continuing on as Director of Hockey Operations.

Flint was set to have the third and fifth overall selections in the draft and while losing one hurts, the bigger issue is the fact that multiple agents have told the team not to draft their players, according to Dhiren Mahiban of Buzzing the Net. The ownership situation and everything that’s gone on this season there puts the franchise’s future in question.

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