When The Birds Left The Nest

Story by Charlie Crowley, Sports Intern
Photo Courtesy of Flint Firebirds

Every sports team needs two things: players and coaches. Players can get released or traded, and coaches can get fired or leave for different positions; this is common at almost every level. However, sometimes a coach gets fired and players aren’t happy about it. Enter the Flint Firebirds of the Ontario Hockey League.

In a matter of minutes Sunday night, the hockey world erupted on the account that Flint’s coaches were fired following a 4-3 come-from-behind victory against the Oshawa Generals. It wasn’t so much that the coaches got fired, but the fact that every single player on Flint went to the front office and quit after hearing it.

Every. Single. Player.

How does this happen? Ownership. The team’s owner, Rolf Nilsen, fires the coaches because his son, Hakon, a 17 year old rookie defenseman, isn’t getting enough playing time. His own kid was even against it. From TSN’s Frank Seravalli:

“According to sources, Hakon could be heard making phone calls to his father, saying “What the (bleep) are you doing?” and “You can’t do this!” Hakon, who appeared in all three games over the weekend, then joined his teammates in solidarity and returned his jersey. Players left a message on a whiteboard in the team’s dressing room, stating: “We’ll come back when the coaches come back.”

Rolf Nilsen rehired the coaching staff on Monday, with nice contract extensions to boot.

I’ve played hockey for twelve years now. I’ve seen the politics the game can bring with parents and boards, but that’s a given; parents get so infatuated with what their kid’s success could bring for them that they may not realize their precious hall of famer-to-be doesn’t have the tools or even the skill to make it big. Nilsen does not have any excuse for what he did. His son is a 17 year old in a league with 20 year olds. Not only that, but the OHL is a league where players go so they can make it to the NHL. Whether he claims it was out of impulse or anger, no excuse can make up for it. As for his players, they took a hell of a risk collectively quitting, one that should be respected; it shows they care about their coaching staff. It’s still up in the air if all of them come back, but Hakon Nilsen may not. Rumors were circulating he may be traded to Sudbury.

Good call, Rolf. Try to complain about playing time to Sudbury’s head coach, and let us all know what he says. We’ll be waiting.

About the writer…

charlieCharlie Crowley is a junior studying communication and journalism. He spends most of his time playing hockey, sleeping, eating, and on Reddit. Charlie is the current Sports Intern for The Saint and will take over the Sports Editor position in the Spring of 2016. He’s also a Hoosier, and proud of it, but can’t hit the open three to save his life.

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