By: Bryan Thiel
The OHL handed out the discipline in the curious case of the Flint Firebirds’ this afternoon, and Commissioner David Branch was not happy with what a private investigation discovered.
Based upon an investigation at my request by Terrence O’Sullivan of the law firm of Lax O’Sullivan Lisus Gottlieb LLP, I am satisfied that Rolf Nilsen of the Flint Firebirds has on several occasions violated an agreement he signed on the 11th day of November, 2015, between himself and the OHL. Those violations are contrary to the best interests of the players, the Team, and the OHL.
There are three layers to the discipline handed down by Branch in the release:
- Rolf Nilsen be suspended by the OHL from being involved directly or indirectly with hockey operations of the Flint Firebirds for five (5) years effective immediately;
- The Flint Firebirds forfeit a first round draft pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection (third pick overall);
- A fine be paid by Rolf Nilsen to the League in the amount of Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars ($250,000.00)
Obviously the biggest sanctions fall against Nilsen, who has been embroiled in controversy since acquiring the team, including the player walkout this all stems from after Head Coach John Gruden was fired in early November, reportedly centering around son Hakon Nilsen’s ice time.
If he were to violate the terms handed down by branch, Rolf Nilsen would be forced to sell 100% of his stake in the team. In addition, if Nilsen wants to apply for some form of reinstatement, he has to wait three years before doing so.
For the Firebirds, the loss of the third overall selection doesn’t take them out of the first round. Before this they had two first round selections at third and fifth (Ryan McLeod refused to report last year and was traded to Mississauga). The Hamilton Bulldogs now select third.
Joe Birch will continue working with the franchise as Director of Hockey Operations, as they’ll look to fill vacancies at Head Coach, General Manager, and throughout the Hockey Ops staff.
Bryan Thiel is a freelance broadcaster who has covered the OHL from rink-side and the broadcast booth. He has also helped produce OHL features for the past four seasons. You can follow him on Twitter @BryanThiel_88.