Ontario Hockey League suspends Flint franchise owner Rolf Nilsen

TORONTO -- The Ontario Hockey League suspended Flint Firebirds owner Rolf Nilsen on Thursday, a day after the major junior team fired its coaching staff for the second time this season.

Head coach and general manager John Gruden and assistant coach Dave Karpa were fired Wednesday. Director of hockey operations Sergei Kharin was named interim head coach and assistant coach Petr Jonak was retained.

On Nov. 8, the Firebirds fired Gruden, Karpa and Jonak. They were reinstated the next day after the players, including the owner's son, responded in a unified protest.

"The recent actions by the owner of the Flint Firebirds, Rolf Nilsen, and his representatives on the management team and coaching staff is of great concern as they pose a serious threat to our commitment to our players and their families," the OHL said in a statement.

In addition to Nilsen's suspension, the league suspended his appointees on the management and coaching staff, including Kharin, until further notice. The Firebirds also have been ordered to provide counselling services for players under the direction of the league.

League officials planned to meet with the players in Flint to discuss the situation. The Firebirds were scheduled to play the Erie Otters on Thursday night, and the team said assistant general manager Joe Stefan and former Plymouth Whalers star Pat Peake will serve as coaches.

The Firebirds, formerly the Plymouth Whalers, entered play Thursday in ninth place in the Western Conference with a 16-31-6 record. They've dropped eight of their last 10 games.