The Flint Firebirds have announced that they have relieved head coach John Gruden of his duties for the second time this season. The news broke at about 2:30pm EST.
Assistant coach Dave Karpa has also been let go by the club.
Firebirds Director of Hockey Operations, Sargei Kharin will serve as interim coach. Petr Jonak will remain with the club, as confirmed by a team press release.
The Flint press release on the Gruden/Karpa firings has no quote from owner Rolf Nilsen or president Costa Papista.
— Ryan Pyette (@RyanatLFPress) February 17, 2016
Back in November in a highly publicized firing, John Gruden and Dave Karpa were both let go by the club for what many believe was a result of Gruden not playing Firebirds owner Rolf Nilsen’s son Håkon.
Both were hired back less than 24 hours after the initial termination as a result of the players quitting the team in support of their coach, and both Karpa and Gruden were given new three-year contracts. In January, Gruden was also promoted to general manager.
The Firebirds are known to run a first class show, at least when it comes to the fan experience. But behind the scenes, many have wondered if Rolf Nilsen has played too much of a role in the hockey operations department, specifically favouring his son.
Mix these new developments with the water contamination situation taking place on the ground in Flint, it could prove rather hard for the Firebirds to recruit well in the future.
In the months since the November incident, five NHL prospects have moved on from Flint. Players held a captain’s practice Wednesday at the Dort Federal Union Credit Center. They play the Erie Otters Thursday night.
The Firebirds currently sit in ninth place in the OHL’s Western Conference with a record of 16-31-4-2.
Really sad what kind of damage one guy with money can do to so many people @FlintFirebirds
— vince scognamiglio (@scogs15) February 17, 2016
Flint has been a disaster all year, ownership will have a real problem recruiting coaches and prospects moving forward.
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) February 17, 2016
Ben Smith covers the CHL for The Hockey Writers. He also writes for HockeyNow Magazine, FlamesNation and SB Nation.