“I was made aware of a situation over the weekend involving an employee of the Dallas Stars organization,” Nill began.
“Once I received all the information, we sat down, we had to digest everything and as I mentioned, we talked to general counsel and everything else and we made our decision.”
Nill did divulge that he caught wind of the undisclosed incident this weekend via phone call and that the incident itself took place “a few days before that” with an investigation beginning on Sunday. He insisted that no players or staff — past or present — were involved in the incident.
Reiterating the reports from TSN’s Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger that Montgomery’s firing was not related to abuse allegations or anything else covered under the NHL’s umbrella of new policies, Nill offered the team’s full support of the new initiative. The initial press release was clear in that the “decision was made due to unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League.”
The GM took on the onus of initially hiring Montgomery but shared that the proper steps needed to be taken and that doing the right thing was more important for the organization than his saving face. Nill and Montgomery did meet Tuesday but could not divulge what they discussed aside from saying that both sides were disappointed.
After starting the season 1-7-1, the Stars went on a dominant 14-1-1 stretch and currently sit fourth place in the Central Division (17-11-3). Nill was asked about the team’s reaction to the news and how their performance might change in the coming games.
“I spoke to the team today and they are very surprised but we are very fortunate. We have a good team . . . we have great leadership and they’re going to get over this. . . . It’s a bump in the road and they’re going to digest this and we’ll move forward and go from there,” adding that “this was a total surprise,” for himself.
“It’s a huge shock,” said long-time NHL coach Rick Bowness, who was elevated to interim head coach with the news. “Usually when a coach takes over a team, they’re struggling or they’re in the process of selling everybody for next year or they finish in the bottom of the league — which I have been a part of too many times. But I’m in a fortunate position that Monty, who was an excellent coach, has got this team playing very, very well.
“The shock, yeah we have to deal with it, and that shock will not wear over just because there’s a game. That’s going to stay with us for a while because we are all very close to Monty and we all work very close to Monty and he’s very close to the players.”
Bowness’ NHL coaching resume dates back to Winnipeg in 1984 where he served as an assistant coach for the Jets. His longest head coaching tenure came with the Ottawa Senators from 1992-96 with a 39-178-18 record. Five of his nine seasons as a head coach in the NHL were incomplete due to mid-season replacements making this season the sixth out of ten. While there probably won’t be any philosophical changes, Bowness did bring up that he’s been out of the head coaching game for a while.
“Man, I haven’t run a bench in 16 years,” he told his players. “So let’s try to be a little patient out there today but we’ll figure it all out as we go along.”