Flint Firebirds rehire coaches; owner admits ‘irresponsible mistake’


In one of the more unusual hockey stories of the year, the OHL’s Flint Firebirds have rehired the two coaches —  John Gruden and his assistant, Dave Karpa — that were fired last night.

The team’s owner, Rolf Nilsen, admitted that his emotions got the better of him.

“Last night, after our emotional shootout game against the Oshawa Generals, I made a decision with regards to our coaching staff, which was an irresponsible mistake,” Nilsen said in a statement.

“This morning, we took steps to immediately reinstate the coaches. Today, the team’s senior leadership met with the players to apologize and have a very frank discussion about next steps leading to a resolution.”

Some background, from TSN.ca:

Nilsen fired Gruden and Karpa on Sunday night almost immediately after a stirring comeback win over the defending Memorial Cup champion Oshawa Generals because his son was not receiving adequate playing time.

Even Nilsen’s son, defenceman Hakon Nilsen, revolted against his father’s decision. 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.

Gruden and Karpa were also reportedly given three-year contract extensions.

The Firebirds franchise moved from Plymouth to Flint for the 2015-16 season, after it was sold to Nilsen in January by Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos, Jr.

Hakon Nilsen, a 17-year-old defenseman, has no points in five games.