Firebirds Saga Continues

Posted: January 9, 2016 by OHLInsiders in Flint Firebirds News, News, Uncategorized
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A week after the Flint Firebirds announced they have removed the GM title from Terry Christensen and named Head Coach John Gruden the General Manager, the Flint Firebirds have reassigned Assistant Coach Petr Jonak.

Both Jonak and Hakon Nilsen were at Budweiser Gardens for the Firebirds Sportsnet matchup with the London Knights on Friday night, but Jonak was not on the bench and Nilsen was a healthy scratch.

It has long been known that Assistant Coach Petr Jonak has been on the same side as former GM Terry Christensen and owner Rolf Nilsen. Going back to just before John Gruden and Dave Karpa were fired as a result of not giving the owner’s son Hakon enough ice time, and before all of the players walked out on the club in mid November, both Jonak and Christensen met with Nilsen where they were informed of the firings that were about to take place and shortly thereafter left the vicinity because they knew what was going to transpire.

So keeping track, we have two sides here. On one side, you have Team Nilsen which includes: Rolf Nilsen (Owner), Terry Christensen (Then GM), Petr Jonak (Asst. Coach & Hakon’s billet). On the other side, is Team Gruden which consists of: John Gruden (Fired & Rehired Head Coach & Now GM), Dave Karpa (Asst. Coach), Players.

Jonak is not, nor has he ever been seen as a real member of the coaching staff. He was placed on the bench by Terry Christensen and since then, he’s been viewed more as an inside scoop for Rolf as to why or why not his son is or isn’t getting used in certain situations, than a coach. Further to this, the Nilsens bond with Assistant Coach Petr Jonak extends off the ice as Jonak billets Hakon Nilsen.

Ever since John Gruden took over as GM of the club last week, we’ve seen  moves such as the “reassignment” of Terry Christensen and Petr Jonak and the scratching at will of D Hakon Nilsen. These moves should be seen as nothing but positive as newly appointed GM John Gruden getting to build this Firebirds squad the way it should have been built from the get go.

If it were totally up to Gruden with no input from owner Rolf Nilsen, I’m confident that Christensen and Jonak would have just been fired instead of reassigned to roles which probably don’t even exist at this point.

Gruden finally getting his way is exactly what we saw in effect on Friday night in London as both Jonak and Nilsen were not part of the team’s efforts to come out with a highly contested loss against a strong Knights team. Saturday night, the Firebirds played the Niagara IceDogs and while Hakon dressed, Jonak was nowhere to be found.

Gruden has no issue with Hakon Nilsen, he just needs to be allowed to do what’s best for the team and today’s move to “reassign” Petr Jonak is one of those moves.

How long this Firebirds saga continues remains to be seen, but I can guarantee it’s nowhere near over yet. It all depends on how owner Rolf Nilsen reacts to Gruden doing it right, and as the days go by, that could get tougher and tougher for him to do.


I can confirm that Rolf Nilsen is not handling John Gruden’s moves the way any owner with his head screwed on correctly should be. Things in Flint are getting uglier and uglier as games go by and the OHL is keeping a close eye. Every single Firebirds player has the commissioner’s personal contact information.

After the firings of GM Terry Christensen and Petr Jonak, everybody involved was excited for the future, except for owner Rolf Nilsen. Upon returning from London on Friday night, a game where John Gruden sat assistant coach Petr Jonak and Hakon Nilsen up in the press box, the way Rolf Nilsen conducted himself was inexplicable.

For now, it seems Gruden is willing to play Rolf’s game as both Saturday night Vs. Niagara and Sunday afternoon @ Guelph, Rolf’s son Hakon saw minutes on the Firebirds powerplay. But for how long can this last, because ultimately it’s hindering Gruden’s goal of developing others who are hoping to and actually have a shot at taking that next step.

Both games in which Hakon played the minutes Rolf wants him to, the Firebirds lost, with little push back. Rolf is fine with losing the rest of their games this year as it would make refiring Gruden and Karpa at season’s end appear warranted.

There is a clause in any franchise agreement that stipulates David Branch can take over any franchise at any time. David Branch could take over the London Knights right now if he wanted to. The difference is, the Hunters would be suing. In the case of the Flint Firebirds, Rolf Nilsen has no case that could possibly be made that would indicate he should be an owner in the OHL. At this point, I’d say it’s looking more and more likely that the OHL goes down that route.

Following the walkout back in November, the OHL actually did take control of the Firebirds franchise for 48 hours. Next time, Rolf couldn’t be so lucky.

Connor Sills Walks

Firebirs overage forward Connor Sills has walked from the Firebirds roster. Although wasn’t worded as politely as this, he’s simply had enough of the off ice drama that has come with being involved with the Flint Firebirds organization.

Sills, RW, a native of Thunder Bay, ON has enjoyed 3 years with the Plymouth Whalers before that franchise moved to Flint at the beginning of the 2015-2016 OHL season.

Over parts of 4 seasons played, and 209 games played, Sills notched 35 points consisting of 15 goals and 20 assists while totaling 307 penalty minutes.

He wants to go to the GOJHL Jr. B loop and has a couple options there which I believe are the Caledonia Corvairs and the Chatham Maroons. As far as I know, If Caledonia does land Sills, they would have to move one of their import players first to do so. Sills would need to obtain an official release from the Flint Firebirds on the Sunday deadline if he wants to play anywhere in the GOJHL.







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