Players walk out on OHL’s Flint Firebirds


Bitten is up to 10 goals and 25 points on the season. (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Players on the OHL’s Flint Firebirds have walked out on the team following the firing of its coaches, according to various reports.

As first reported by OHL Insiders, after the Firebirds rallied back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Oshawa Generals on Sunday, the club let go of its coaches prompting players to “march” up to the management offices and quit.

ESPN’s John Buccigross also chimed in:

The website asserts that the firings stemmed from the ice time that coach John Gruden allotted to Hakon Nilsen, son of club owner Rolf Nilsen. The son, 17, played his fifth game of the season Sunday night. He has zero points and is a minus-3 with two PIM. He was one of the players who walked out.

A team spokesman confirmed the players’ revolt to a CBS affiliate in Michigan late Sunday night.

According to Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek, the players and organization are in a “stalemate,” with the Firebirds’ next game scheduled for Friday versus the Sarnia Sting.

Marek joined Sportsnet 590 The Fan’s Dean Blundell & Co. Monday morning and called the situation “an absolute mess”, saying that to label it dysfunctional would be a disservice to dysfunctional families. He went on to note that the deep-pocketed Nilsen “doesn’t care what people think about him.”

Marek also raised the specter of what this all means for Flint’s players, specifically leading scorer Will Bitten, who NHL Central Scouting rated as a second- or third-round prospect in September.

Finally, Marek was asked what this means for the OHL and said that he fully expected to see some more solidarity before this story is closed, saying that OHL Commissioner David Branch “will have the full support” of the other 19 owners around the league when it comes to any discipline against Nilsen.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.