OHL investigates Firebirds for firing coach again

Flint Firebirds coach John Gruden has been fired. Again.
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Stop us if you've heard this one before: Flint Firebirds coach John Gruden has been fired.

Gruden, along with assistant coach Dave Karpa, was sent packing by the Ontario Hockey League club for the second time this season on Wednesday. And as with the first time, the circumstances of their dismissal immediately drew the attention of the league commissioner David Branch.

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“It has come to the league’s attention that the Flint Firebirds ownership has once again made significant changes to their coaching staff,” Branch said in a statement. “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.

“We have been in contact with the team captain and it is our intention to meet and communicate with all players and families in short order. 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.

“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.”

UPDATE: On Thursday Branch suspended team owner Rolf Nilsen and interim coach Sergei Kharin.

It is within Branch's power to force the sale of the team in order to protect the integrity of the league.

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Owner Rolf Nilsen fired the same staff back in November, reportedly over concerns about the amount of ice time being given to his son, 18-year-old rookie defenseman Hakon Nilsen.

The younger Nilsen and the rest of his teammates quit the team in a show of support for the coaches, prompting their re-hiring 24 hours later.

In the wake of the second firing, former Winnipeg Jets center Sergei Kharin was tapped to serve as the interim head coach.