The Flint Firebirds have taken the attention of the hockey world by firing their coaching staff not once, but twice. Owner Rolf Nilsen has made it publicly known he wants his son Hakon Nilsen, a 6'1" 190 lb right handed shooting defenseman to play. The players all staged a walkout, which was settled by OHL Commissioner David Branch, as well as all parties involved. Then, General Manager Terry Christensen started to trade out key pieces of the team while the coaching staff started to give Hakon Nilsen, who did walk out too, more playing time.
It was reported today by multiple sources that the Flint Firebirds fired both John Gruden and Dave Karpa, again. The team's record is 16-31-4, good for third worst in the OHL. Most sources believe that wasn't the motive for the firings today. The players held a captain ran practice today, but plan to walkout again if OHL Commissioner David Branch does not gain control of the team. One of those players is Vili Saarijärvi, a Detroit Red Wings 2015 3rd round (73rd overall) draft pick.
Vili Saarijarvi has publicly stated that he will not return to the Flint Firebirds after this season, but wants to finish the season with the tight knit team that has been bonded together over this major disruption . His options are believed to be the AHL, USHL and Finland, the AHL being the most likely choice. George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press tweeted earlier that:"Red Wings asst GM Ryan Martin said no decision has been made on where Flint Firebirds D Vili Saarijärvi will play next year." He then followed that up by saying that,"Wings asst GM Ryan Martin said D Vili Saarijärvi will either play for the Grand Rapids Griffins(AHL) or the Toledo Walleye (ECHL) after Flint's season ends."
In George Sipple's Detroit Free Press article, Ryan Martin heaps praise on Vili Saarijärvi. Ryan Martin praises Vili's positive attitude and character among other things. Vili has made it known that he would like to be able to finish this current OHL season with his teammates, who have been extremely close this season considering all that's taken place. Vili is prepared to stand with his teammates and whatever decision they make. The popular hope among fans is that Vili and his teammates can finish out their season in Flint under David Branch's control. Speculation is Rolf Nilsen has built this season around getting his son drafted, which is a long shot at best. David Branch is expected to arrive in Flint tomorrow, so that will shed further light on the very odd situation out of Flint, Michigan.