OHL reviewing Flint Firebirds’ firing of coaches

John Gruden, right, was fired by the Firebirds for the second time this season. (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

TORONTO — The Ontario Hockey League is reviewing the Flint Firebirds’ decision to fire their coaching staff for the second time this season.

The Firebirds announced Wednesday that head coach and general manager John Gruden and assistant coach Dave Karpa had been fired "effective immediately," with director of hockey operations Sergei Kharin named interim head coach.

Flint fired Gruden, Karpa and assistant coach Petr Jonak — who keeps his position with the team this time around — on Nov. 8 before reinstating them the next day.

"It has come to the league’s attention that the Flint Firebirds ownership has once again made significant changes to their coaching staff," OHL commissioner David Branch said in a statement Wednesday. "This change, the manner in which it occurred and the way it was communicated to the players and to the league is of great concern."

Branch said the league had been in contact with the Firebirds captain Alex Peters and intends to meet with the rest of the players and their families soon.

"The players and their playing experience is of the utmost importance to the league and we will continue to work to ensure that they are treated with respect," Branch said. "It is the league’s intention to immediately review the actions of the Flint Firebirds before we determine the next steps we will take to address this situation."

According to reports, the Firebirds had originally fired Gruden and Karpa in November because owner Rolf Nilsen felt his son, defenceman Hakon Nilsen, was not receiving enough playing time. Reports said each Flint player, including the owner’s son, handed in his jersey and quit in response.

Ownership called the firings an "irresponsible mistake" the next day and re-hired Gruden, Karpa and Jonak. Gruden took on a GM role with the team in January.

The Firebirds, formerly the Plymouth Whalers, are ninth in the Western Conference with an 11-31-6 record. They’ve dropped back-to-back games and eight of their last 10.

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