After an inaugural season filled with turmoil and defined by news headlines, the Ontario Hockey League’s Flint Firebirds have announced the hiring of George Burnett as their new general manager.
Burnett becomes the first GM to take on the role since the league took control of team operations in February after owner Rolf Nilsen’s antics cost him his OHL club. Nilsen, who was handed a five-year suspension in April, was handed the ban following his firing of the same coaching staff for the second time during the 2015-16 season.
“The League is entrusting George Burnett with the hockey operations of the Flint Firebirds and we believe his experience will provide the players, parents, billets, and team staff with stability and expertise,” said OHL Commissioner David Branch in a statement on Tuesday.
The Firebirds lacked stability in their coaching staff and front office as Nilsen reportedly fired a number of staff after a dispute pertaining to his son’s playing time. The dispute made it a hostile environment for players and parents.
Burnett served as the coach and general manager of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs in 2015-16 and has spent time with the Belleville Bulls (11 seasons) and the Oshawa Generals (four seasons) as well as the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks (two season in the late 1990s) and Edmonton Oilers in 1994-95.
While the rest of the staff has yet to be put in place – the coaching staff specifically – the Firebirds will look to distance themselves from their disappointing inaugural season as they start fresh in 2016-17.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.