Over the last three-plus seasons, New York Night coach Nick Foster has become famous and infamous around the SHL for his acid-tongued quips and his enthusiastic attempts to stir up rivalries, especially with the Hamilton Pistols. More quietly, Foster also transformed the Night’s toxic culture and lifted the team from a punchline to a borderline contender.
He couldn’t quite get them over the hump, however. And this week Foster was fired as coach of the Night, arguably for failing to back up his boasts and jabs with a title or even a playoff berth.
“This was a tough call for us, because I really like Nick and appreciate all he’s done for the organization,” said Night GM Jay McKay. “I don’t want to lose sight of that. But we came to the conclusion that a different voice and a different direction is what we need to get to the next level.”
Foster departs with a record of 105-114-6. When he first arrived in New York in 2017, he inherited a feuding, dysfunctional locker room, with star players openly criticizing then-coach Preston Rivers and even leaving the team or refusing to take the ice. Foster quickly worked to instill discipline in the team, encouraging a greater focus on two-way play, physicality, and accountability, benching or trading players who didn’t want to buy in.
Once he had managed to mold the team in his image, Foster turned his attention outward. He embraced the role of heel, encouraging his team to lean into the swaggering bad-boy image. He sprinkled his press conferences with insults aimed at opposing teams and players. He even mocked Dakota’s famed Corn Palace. Most famously, he stoked New York’s rivalry with Hamilton, turning it into the fiercest feud in the league.
Foster’s approach earned him a lot of enemies around the league, but it proved popular both with his players and with Night fans. During each of the last two seasons, the Night finished above .500, the first winning campaigns in franchise history.
But New York never made the postseason, and they’d shown some signs of stagnation or even regression recently. With aging owner Marvin Kingman reportedly desperate for a Vandy, there was growing concern about whether Foster had taken the team as far as he could, and about whether his press-conference remarks were serving to fire up opponents more than the Night.
“This isn’t just about Nick,” said McKay of the firing. “Ultimately, this is a challenge to all of us. We need to step up our game and reach the next level. Mr. Kingman expects a great deal out of this team, and it’s on us to deliver.”
“Live by the sword, die by the sword,” said Foster. “I know lots of people around the league have been longing for the day I got the ax, so today’s your day! Live it up. The bastards won this round, but this team isn’t done, and I’m not either. Enjoy the peace and quiet for now, but remember that I’ll be back. You’re not getting rid of me that easy!”
Assistant coach Biff Lombardi was named the interim head coach, but the team is not expected to retain him long-term. The team is reportedly considering former Washington Galaxy coach Rodney Reagle and Harvey Williams of the minor-league Oshawa Drive as possible replacements.