OHL suspends Flint Firebirds’ owner, management

The Ontario Hockey League has taken issue with the ownership of the Flint Firebirds.
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Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch levied sanctions against the Flint Firebirds and their owner Rolf Nilsen on Thursday.

The OHL suspended Nilsen, Firebirds’ management as well as new coach and director of operations Sergei Kharin, effective immediately. The move was made one day after the team fired head coach John Gruden and assistant Dave Karpa for the second time this season.

Below is a statement from the Ontario Hockey League:

“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.”

The Firebirds initially relieved Gruden and Karpa of their duties on Nov. 8 with the limited playing time for Nilsen’s son, Hakon, reportedly as the driving reason behind the dismissal. The league intervened a day later, and Gruden and Karpa were presented three-year contract extensions.

On Thursday, Hakon Nilsen was the lone member of the team to attend the morning practice.

Michael Bitten, the father of the team’s leading scorer Will Bitten, told The Hockey News that his son would not return to the club next season if Nilsen remains in control.