Onward and upward in Flint

September 13, 2016

Okay, so the first season in Flint did not go all that well for the Firebirds, the transplanted version of the Plymouth Whalers.

There were much-publicized issues that the Ontario Hockey League itself took major steps to resolve.

In a nutshell, the OHL took over the hockey operations side of the Firebirds from owner Rolf Nilsen, who maintains control of the business end of the franchise, not to mention ownership of the nicely-refurbished arena that the team plays out of in Flint.

And while the Firebirds missed the playoffs in 2015-2016, they averaged close to 3,000 fans per game at Dort Federal Credit Union Event Centre in Flint, which is more than what the erstwhile Whalers managed to draw in Plymouth during their best of years.

The OHL is moving on in Flint.

It is moving onward and upward under the watch of the OHL, which I am thinking has a long-term plan of mending fences with Nilsen, who it should be noted, has accepted his five-year suspension by the league that forbids him from being involved in hockey operations of the Firebirds.

As has been written in this space more than once since the OHL intervened and dealt with Nilsen, the Firebirds are in exceptional hands with the reputable, venerable George Burnett on board as the new general manager.

And what is being said about the new-look Firebirds coaching staff led by Ryan Oulahen is all good.

Perhaps the Firebirds will struggle this season.

Perhaps they will miss the playoffs for a second straight season.

But perhaps they will surprise a few of the naysayers.

A new OHL season begins next week. And it begins with Flint playing host to its mid-Michigan rivals, the Saginaw Spirit.

Without question, the Firebirds are well-led by Burnett, Oulahen et al. And if there are questions about the immediate future, there is that comfort level with a proven OHL winner of many years on multiple teams in the aforementioned Burnett.

And by the way, as this is being written, the Firebirds are in a 20-way tie for first place in the OHL.

PHOTO: Inside Dort Federal Credit Union Event Centre, home of the OHL’s Flint Firebirds. (Photo by Ron Crichton.)

What you think about “Onward and upward in Flint”

  1. well said for sure RR as it is easy to dump on this team . when really the OHL do well by there American teams . and lets not forget that Erie were a bad team for many years before they turned things around.

  2. Flint are gonna finnish last no matter how much you ‘sugar coat’ it!
    The Firebirds will be lucky if they win 15 Games all year along.

  3. Let’s hope that Burrnet stays the course and gets ‘Fair Value’ for the remaining 2 players who refused to report

  4. I’ve never seen so much drama in one OHL season as long as I was following this league. I’ve seen this happen in the CCHL with the Gloucester Rangers in 2004-5 when coaching staff quit over the owner’s son. Players got traded, demanded trades and the Rangers went from a championship caliber team to finish 5th. Happened with the Nepean Raiders, another CCHL team in 2009-10 when the owner’s son approached the coach (Gerry Galley, who is the CBC commentator) and told him to put his son on the first line. So, Galley quits and his son soon follows and gets dealt to another team. But, the situation in Flint is much intense.

  5. Well, by the time the five-year suspension is up, Nilsen’s kid will have aged out – but that will still not address the issue of team owners forcing their coaches to play their sons. You would think with so many head-shaking examples out there that leagues would not allow this travesty to continue.

  6. Hey Armand5!
    The old regulars’ comments seem to be fewer and fewer in number these days. Certainly interesting goings-on in Flint over their two seasons.
    I seem to recall that at the beginning of last year the team president was listed as one Costa Papista, well known to you, me, and a host of old Centennials fans as ‘Costalot’, or ‘the Franchise Assassin’. There has been no mention of his name since all the kerfuffle began. Can we assume that the OHL ‘cleanup’ resulted in his disappearance from the scene? (Can you shed any light on this, RR?)
    With Papista gone, and Mr. Burnett and Oulahen on board, it’s reasonable to expect a much-improved effort from the Firebirds in 2016-17. Perhaps Papista has been set adrift to seek new pastures where he can wreak his usual havoc.
    Cheers all!

  7. RR,
    Amazing!! Hard to imagine. Did his reputation not precede him?
    Or, one never knows how much influence ‘deep pockets’ can have, eh. (Just an opinion, of course.)
    Thanks very much for your reply, Randy.
    Regards, LeJib

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