Dallas Stars fire head coach Jim Montgomery, citing ‘unprofessional conduct’

DALLAS—The Dallas Stars fired second-year coach Jim Montgomery on Tuesday for what the team called unprofessional conduct.

General manager Jim Nill said Montgomery had acted inconsistently with “core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League.” He did not elaborate.

Nill said he became aware Sunday of an act by Montgomery and that the decision to relieve the coach of his duties came after an internal investigation that included discussions with the team’s general counsel. While again not going into detail, Nill said it was not a criminal act, and had no connection to present or past players.

Nill, who hired Montgomery, called the incident a “total surprise.”

Rick Bowness, who came on an assistant coach with Montgomery, was named interim head coach for the remainder of the season, starting with Tuesday night’s home game against the New Jersey Devils.

In all, four NHL coaches have lost their jobs already this season — three of them amid allegations of misbehaviour.

The move by the Stars came only a day after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, at a meeting of the Board of Governors, said the league will work swiftly to make changes to better deal with personal conduct issues raised by players and former players in recent weeks, including allegations of racism and physical abuse by coaches.

Montgomery’s firing is not related to that kind of misbehaviour, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team has not elaborated on the reason for Montgomery’s dismissal.

Montgomery was 60-43-10 as the Stars coach after being hired in the summer of 2018 from the University of Denver for his first head coaching job in the NHL. Dallas made the playoffs last season before losing in double-overtime in Game 7 of its second-round series on the road against the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues.

After the Stars got off to a horrendous 1-7-1 start this season, they won seven of eight and have also recently had a seven-game winning streak. They are now 17-11-3, and in one of the Western Conference’s top wildcard spot.

The league has been rocked by allegations over the past month, some of them dating back years.

Calgary coach Bill Peters resigned last month following accusations by former NHL player Akim Aliu that Peters previously directed racist slurs toward him while the two were in the minors a decade ago. Peters was also accused of physical abuse while coaching the Carolina Hurricanes.

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Coach Mike Babcock was accused of verbal abuse after he was fired by the underperforming Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago assistant Marc Crawford is being investigated for alleged physical abuse of players.

Bettman said the NHL was conducting its own review of the Peters-Aliu situation. Among the items in a proposed plan by the league is that teams will be required to immediately report any incidents of inappropriate behaviour by club personnel brought to their attention. Bettman said failure to do so would result in “severe discipline.”

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