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Bulldogs coach John Gruden overcomes Flint turmoil to reach Memorial Cup

Nicholas Caamano’s favorite reminiscence of Hamilton Bulldogs head coach John Gruden stems from their tricky days with the Flint Firebirds all through the 2015-16 Ontario Hockey League season.

The 19-year-old ahead used to be traded from Flint previous this season in conjunction with centre Ryan Moore — reuniting him with Gruden and ahead Will Bitten from their days with the Firebirds.

All 4 have now reached the Memorial Cup with the Bulldogs in Regina.

“I think just coming from where we came in Flint with all that happened there and then hoisting the OHL championship, I think that was huge,” Caamano mentioned Sunday.

Gruden and the Firebirds continued a difficult and atypical 2015-16 season, which used to be their first in Flint, Mich., after relocating from Plymouth, Mich.

Team proprietor Rolf Nilsen employed Gruden, however then fired him lower than two months into the season amid stories the landlord sought after extra ice time for his son.

Players protested, together with Nilsen’s son, and Gruden used to be re-hired and given a three-year extension. Then he used to be fired once more in February 2016.

The OHL intervened with the franchise after the second firing and took over course of the crew whilst postponing Nilsen for 5 years.

‘Things occur for a explanation why’

Gruden used to be employed through Hamilton in June 2016 and mentioned his self assurance did not waiver in spite of that difficult season.

“I really truly believed that we were having some success,” Gruden mentioned of his time in Flint. “I truly really imagine that it used to be going to paintings.

“Things occur for a explanation why and I am simply lucky that Steve [Staios] gave me a 2nd alternative.”

Staios, the Bulldogs’ president and basic supervisor, did not have any hesitation when he employed Gruden as his new head coach.

He mentioned Gruden’s talent to deal with the location in Flint gave him the lead at the activity.

“I felt his persona used to be examined and each and every a kind of gamers beloved taking part in for him,” Staios said. “That is a state of affairs the place he used to be ready to paintings underneath excessive stipulations and nonetheless coach the crew and nonetheless make it an atmosphere the place the ones gamers sought after to come to the rink.

“You put someone in a really tough situation and that’s where your true character is tested and John was able to withstand that with dignity and leadership.”

Hamilton has flourished in its 2nd season underneath Gruden, topping the OHL’s Eastern Conference with a 43-18-7 file. That luck carried thru all through the playoffs and led to profitable the J. Ross Robertson Cup through upsetting the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds within the league ultimate.

The Bulldogs lost their opener on the Canadian primary junior championship and face the Western Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos on Monday night time.

Honest way

Caamano mentioned that one in all Gruden’s perfect characteristics is his honesty with gamers.

“He really holds his players accountable and lets us know if we do something right and if we do something wrong, he’s going to be there to teach us,” he mentioned.

Gruden and Staios crossed paths all through their NHL occupation in 1995-96 with the Boston Bruins even supposing by no means stored in contact afterwards. Staios used to be in his rookie yr that season and went on to play 1,001 video games as a defenceman with Vancouver, Atlanta, Edmonton, Calgary and New York Islanders.

Gruden, in the meantime, used to be additionally at the blue-line, even supposing performed in 92 occupation video games over 10 years with Boston, Ottawa and Washington.

The 47-year-old coach mentioned that he known as Staios when he used to be unemployed to say that he used to be within the activity.

He’s been with Hamilton ever since.

“I’m just thinking what the reception was at the time when he hired me,” Gruden mentioned. “For him to go out to understand what he thinks is best and to hire me, I’m so thankful for it.”

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