In case you don’t know what has led to this point, let’s review:
In November of 2015, The Detriot Free Press reported that Nilsen fired head coach John Gruden and assistant coach Dave Karpa due to rumors that his son, Hakon Nilsen, wasn’t getting as much playing time as Nilsen wanted. Although those rumors were not confirmed at the time. In response to losing their head coach, the players decided not to play.
While coaches getting fired isn’t exactly newsworthy, the Players boycotting definitely is. Gruden and Karpa were re-hired and given contract extension, which most thought would be the end of it…until yesterday.
Nilsen yet again fired Gruden and Karpa yesterday, for reasons that are unclear which prompted OHL commissioner David Branch to release the following statement:
“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.”
There’s no telling what Branch can actually do about the ownership of the team in the middle of the season and issues with ownership are so hard to deal with. But kudos to him for putting the players first instead of siding with the owner and we will have to see what comes in the days to follow.