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Fired Junior Hockey Coaches Rehired After Entire Team Quits In Protest

Illustration for article titled Fired Junior Hockey Coaches Rehired After Entire Team Quits In Protest

Parents of youth athletes are notorious for carping about how little playing time precious Madison and Hunter are receiving, complaining to the coach and yelling from the stands. But rarely does a parent own the team their kid plays on, and even more rarely do they fire the entire coaching staff to get them more run. But that’s just what reportedly happened last night to the Flint Firebirds, of the Ontario Hockey League.


After a come-from-behind OT victory over the Oshawa Generals, owner Rolf Nilsen fired the entire coaching staff, reportedly because he felt they weren’t playing his son, defenseman Hakon Nilsen, enough.

What Nilsen didn’t expect, however, was for the entire team to quit. According to John Buccigross, every player “stormed” upstairs to the front office, and like some shit out of a hockey-themed Rudy, threw down their jerseys and walked out. Even Hakon Nilsen quit, and according to TSN, he thinks his dad is an idiot:

According to sources, Hakon could be heard making phone calls to his father, saying “What the (bleep) are you doing?” and “You can’t do this!” Hakon, who appeared in all three games over the weekend, then joined his teammates in solidarity and returned his jersey.


Today the coaches were rehired, with the assistants given extensions. According to a team statement, Nilsen called his decision an “irresponsible mistake” and apologized to the players, before having a “very frank discussion” about the situation. That’s not exactly how TSN describes Nilsen’s meeting with the players:

Nilsen offered players a terse apology on Monday afternoon, saying only “I’m sorry for what I did,” before leaving the dressing room so the players could regroup with the coaching staff.

This isn’t the only place where the team’s and media’s accounts differ. According to team president Costa Papista, the firings had nothing to do with the younger Nilsen’s playing time:

Papista said Gruden and assistant coach Dave Karpa were not fired because of a lack of playing time for defenseman Håkon Nilsen, son of the owner, as has been reported.

“That’s something that when Rolf is ready to discuss, he might be able to shed some more light,” Papista said in a telephone interview. “I, personally, had not seen or witnessed any type of concern or displeasure around that issue.”


Considering the Firebirds won’t say why the coaches were fired, that numerous media accounts say it was because they wouldn’t play Hakon Nilsen, and that the team was shamed by every single player—including five NHL draft picks and a few players likely to be selected in upcoming drafts—into rehiring their coaches after fewer than 24 hours, I know which story I believe.

Photo via AP; h/t everyone


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