OHL slaps Flint Firebirds owner with five-year suspension, $250K fine

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The Ontario Hockey League has come down hard on Flint owner Rolf Nilsen, delivering one of the most severe suspensions and largest fines in league history.

From OHL commissioner David Branch:

I am satisfied that Rolf Nilsen of the Flint Firebirds has on several occasions violated an agreement he signed on the 11th day of November, 2015, between himself and the OHL. Those violations are contrary to the best interests of the players, the Team, and the OHL.

In view of these findings, in accordance with the OHL Constitution, I have ordered that:

Rolf Nilsen be suspended by the OHL from being involved directly or indirectly with hockey operations of the Flint Firebirds for five (5) years effective immediately;

The Flint Firebirds forfeit a first round draft pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection (third pick overall);

A fine be paid by Rolf Nilsen to the League in the amount of Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars ($250,000.00);

If it is determined by the League that Rolf Nilsen has violated this Order, the League may order Rolf Nilsen to sell one hundred percent (100%) of the ownership interest of the Flint Firebirds.

Nilsen came under fire this season for firing his entire coaching staff on Nov. 8, rehiring them again the next day, then firing them again in February.

The final action led to the OHL suspending Nilsen indefinitely.

According to reports, Nilsen first fired his head coaches because he didn’t believe his son — Hakon, a defenseman — was receiving enough playing time. In the aftermath, the OHL had Nilsen sign the aforementioned agreement, which “prevented him from firing his coaches again without OHL consultation, but also forbid him from meddling in hockey-related activities,” per TSN.

That agreement, obviously, was breached.

In today’s ruling, the OHL said that if Nilsen violates this latest order, he may be forced to sell 100 percent interest in the team (he’s not allowed to apply for reinstatement for three years).

The league also stated the “stewardship, supervision and direction” of Flint’s hockey operations would fall under Branch, while Joe Birch — who has filled the Firebirds’ Director of Hockey Ops role since February — will stay on in that same capacity.

Flint is expected to name a new GM, head coach and more hockey ops staffers in the near future.