The Dallas Stars fired coach Jim Montgomery on Tuesday “due to unprofessional conduct.”
“The Dallas Stars expect all of our employees to act with integrity and exhibit professional behavior while working for and representing our organization,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said in a statement. “This decision was made due to unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League.”
At a news conference later Tuesday, Nill said there were no other employees involved in Montgomery’s fireable offense but refused to elaborate on what he called a “material act of unprofessionalism” by the coach.
“I’m not going to discuss the act. Unfortunately, I can’t. That’s out of respect for everyone involved,” said Nill, calling the behavior a “total surprise” to him. “We decided this was unprofessional and a decision had to be made.”
Nill said the team conducted an investigation and “went through the records” on Montgomery’s transgressions.
“This all came to light on Sunday,” Nill said. “Once I received all the information, we sat down and digested everything. We sat down, talked to general counsel and made our decision.”
Nill said the firing had nothing to do with the NHL’s new policy on coaches abuse that was announced at Monday’s board of governors meeting in Pebble Beach, California. The league was aware of this investigation into Montgomery ahead of that meeting.
“We approve the NHL making this four-point initiative,” Nill says. “I was in contact with the NHL, but this decision was made before that initiative was announced. There is no connection.”
He spoke to Montgomery on Tuesday and said he was “very disappointed.” Nill then addressed the team. While the Stars were “very surprised,” he said the team has good leadership.
“They’re going to get over this,” he said.
“We all want to know all the answers,” forward Jamie Benn said, according to The Athletic. “But that’s not the case. We believe that Jim Nill and our organization made the right move. So we’ll trust in them.”
Montgomery, 50, was in his second season with the Stars after five seasons as coach of the University of Denver. He has two years left on his contract at $1.6 million per season.
Dallas finished fourth in the Central Division last season but made a run in the playoffs, losing in seven games in the second round to the eventual champion St. Louis Blues.
The Stars, who are currently fourth in the division, host New Jersey on Tuesday night.
The Stars said assistant Rick Bowness will take over as interim coach, with Texas Stars (AHL) head coach Derek Laxdal joining his staff. Texas Stars assistant Neil Graham will take over for Laxdal.
Bowness and his staff will be in place for the rest of the season, according to Nill.
“It’s a shock, and we’re going to have to deal with it,” Bowness said. “The cold reality of it is that we have a game to play tonight. But we’re professionals and this is what we signed up for.”
Information from ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski was used in this report.
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