In a move that comes as a surprise to few, the New York Night fired coach Preston Rivers. The move came at the end of a season of acrimony and disappointment, as the Night slogged to another mediocre season and an enormous and public rift developed between the coach and several key players.
“The only shocker was that he made it all the way to the end of the season,” said one player.
Rivers finishes his New York career with a record of 54-61-5, not nearly good enough for an organization that makes no secret of its lofty aspirations. Night GM Royce McCormick focused on the record as the prime driver behind the firing of Rivers. “Our goal is championships, nothing less,” said McCormick. “Preston failed to deliver on that expectation, so we decided it was time for a new voice to get to that next level.”
According to team sources, though, Rivers’ record wasn’t the real cause f0r the dismissal; rather, it was the fact that New York’s star players were increasingly open in their disdain for the coach. It started in midseason, when D Tuomas Nurmi claimed that Night players were being harassed as payback for Rivers’ boasting and taunting. Later in the season, RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson bashed his coach and called for him to be fired. The feud ultimately escalated to the point that Nelson and Rivers nearly came to blows in the locker room, after which the star winger left the team for three games. It took McCormick’s intervention to get Nelson to rejoin the team.
The situation went from bad to worse over the final week of the season. The entire team boycotted a mandatory practice on Monday as a show of no confidence in Rivers. The coach stopped addressing the team in the locker room before or after games, preferring to lock himself in his office. RW Daniel Bellanger went home to Montreal with two games left in the season. G “Jersey Mike” Ross refused to take the ice for the final two games, although he did attend the games. And the entire team just went through the motions in the last game, a 6-4 loss to struggling Saskatchewan.
The team announced the firing while Rivers and the Night were still in Saskatoon. Rivers did not fly back to New York with the team, avoiding a potentially awkward situation.
Predictably, the coach went down swinging. “I know everyone’s thinking they’ve seen the last of me,” Rivers told reporters. “But they’d better think again. You can’t keep a good man down, and you sure as hell can’t keep this man down. I’ll be back, unless I go to work for Mr. Trump’s administration. Either way, you haven’t heard the last of me.”