Friday, May 25, 2012

What happened in Cranbrook?

Jeff Chynoweth, the president and general manager of the Kootenay Ice, fired head coach Kris Knoblauch on Friday morning.
The news became public when a terse two-sentence press release was posted on the Ice’s website.
Here is that release in its entirety:
“Jeff Chynoweth, General Manager of the Kootenay ICE Hockey Club, today announced the Club has terminated Kris Knoblauch’s contract effective immediately. No other comments will be given at this time.”
Knoblauch, 33, just completed his second season as the Ice’s head coach. In his first season, 2010-11, the Ice won the WHL championship.
When this season ended, Knoblauch had one year left on his contract. Earlier this month, Chynoweth, convinced that his head coach was staying put, gave him a one-year extension through 2013-14.
The U of Alberta Golden Bears, Knoblauch’s alma mater, has been looking for a head coach. They posted the position with an application deadline of May 15.
At that time, Chynoweth said he knew Knoblauch was interested in returning to the U of A. At the same time, Chynoweth said he didn’t know if he could wait until after May 15 to find out whether his coach was leaving.
When the job was posted, Stan Marple, the U of A’s general manager and assistant coach, called Knoblauch, who brought it to Chynoweth.
Chynoweth, who never did hear from the U of Alberta during this process, told Knoblauch that he would give him a one-week window to decide what he wanted to do.
Knoblauch went back to Marple but the U of A had already posted the job with the May 15 deadline so wasn’t able to make a move at that time.
When the Golden Bears’ selection committee revealed earlier this week that it had short-listed to four, there was speculation that Knoblauch was on that list.
When I asked Chynoweth early in the week if Knoblauch was “in the running,” the response I got was: “Nope, never really has been.”
On Thursday night, a source told me that Chynoweth had given Knoblauch a one-year extension. Chynoweth confirmed that this morning.
When I contacted Chynoweth late Thursday night to see if Knoblauch definitely was out of the U of A picture, I was told that “Kris is in Saskatchewan visiting his family and his wife’s family. He is driving back to Cranbrook next week.”
While Chynoweth isn’t commenting on Knoblauch’s dismissal, it would seem that sometime after that he became aware that Knoblauch indeed is a candidate for the Golden Bears’ head-coaching position and that, yes, he is on the short list.
Chynoweth, who did tell me that he is “bitterly disappointed” in what has transpired, had held talks with Knoblauch earlier this week involving the hiring of an assistant coach. Todd Johnson, the Ice’s former assistant, left after the season to sign on as head coach of the U of Regina Cougars.
When Chynoweth confirmed Friday morning that Knoblauch was pursuing the Golden Bears job, Chynoweth felt he had no choice but to relieve Knoblauch of his duties.
It was the first time in his career that Chynoweth has fired a coach or anyone in hockey management.
That leaves the Ice and Brandon Wheat Kings as WHL teams without head coaches at this time.
The Wheat Kings fired Cory Clouston last week with a year left on his contract. Clouston spent five seasons (2002-06) as the Ice’s head coach.
Yes, you will hear Clouston’s name as a possible replacement in Cranbrook. You almost certainly also will hear Dean Chynoweth’s name. Chynoweth, Jeff’s brother, lost his job as an assistant coach with the NHL’s New York Islanders after their season ended. Dean, a former captain of the Medicine Hat Tigers, has WHL coaching experience with the Seattle Thunderbirds and Swift Current Broncos.
Ryan McGill, who was the Ice’s head coach when it won the 2002 Memorial Cup, was dropped as an assistant coach by the Calgary Flames after the 2010-11 season. He now is in the oil and gas business in Calgary.

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