OHL suspends owner of Flint Firebirds

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Following is a press release from the Ontario Hockey League, in the wake of yesterday’s goings-on in Flint:

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;

In addition, the League will continue to investigate the actions of Rolf Nilsen and other representatives of the Flint Firebirds and will take any action and impose any sanctions that are deemed appropriate by the Commissioner.

Later today, the League will be meeting with the players in Flint to further discuss the situation, and to ensure that they are provided the appropriate supports.  These discussions and supports will be ongoing for the players and their families.

Yesterday, The Hockey News reached out to the father of Flint forward Will Bitten to try and shed some light on the situation.

“If there are not changes there, my son will not go back, and I don’t think many others would as well,” Michael Bitten told the publication.

“This owner, he’s a billionaire and it seems like he’s challenging the OHL right now. I really hope they’re able to come to a solution because this problem is not going away.”

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.