Dallas Stars Coach Fired for ‘Unprofessional Conduct’ After NHL Announces ‘Zero Tolerance' Policy

Jim Montgomery is the second coach to lose his job over his behaviour in recent weeks as the NHL grapples with a toxic work culture.

by Mack Lamoureux
Dec 10 2019, 4:37pm

Jim Montgomery in 2018. Photo via Jose Juarez/AP.

The Dallas Stars have fired their head coach Jim Montgomery for “unprofessional behaviour."

While it is not clear exactly what caused Montgomery’s firing as of yet, he's the latest casualty in the hockey's ongoing reckoning. In a press release, Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill made it clear his firing was for behavioural issues, not performance.

"The Dallas Stars expect all of our employees to act with integrity and exhibit professional behaviour while working for and representing our organization,” reads the press release. “This decision was made due to unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League."

The move comes less than 24 hours after the NHL announced a zero tolerance policy. Yesterday, the NHL Board of Governors announced a "zero-tolerance" policy against abuse and said they will be creating programs designed to reduce abusive behaviour.

In his statement regarding the league-wide changes, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he and the governors “do not like surprises.” He demanded any team that becomes aware of “inappropriate, unlawful or demonstrably abusive” behaviour by an “ NHL personnel on or off the ice” must immediately be flagged.

“There will be zero tolerance for any failure to notify us and in the event of such failure, the club and individuals involved can expect severe discipline,” said Bettman’s statement.

Montgomery, 50, was in his second full season as an NHL head coach. Before this, Montgomery was a professional player who bounced between the minors and the NHL and an NCAA coach with the University of Denver. Rick Bowness, a former assistant coach under Montgomery, will be assuming coaching duties for the Stars.

The firing of Montgomery comes while hockey’s toxic underbelly has been scrutinized unlike ever before. A month ago Don Cherry was fired for making xenophobic comments. Shortly thereafter, the manipulative and abusive head games of recently fired Maple Leaf coach Mike Babcock came to light.

The stories surrounding Babcock caused the actions of Bill Peters, the former head coach of the Calgary Flames, to shake loose. Former NHLer Akim Aliu tweeted out a story about how in the past Peters used the “N-word” when deriding Aliu’s taste in music. After Alui came forward Michael Johnson, a former NHL defenceman, said he and other players were punched and kicked by Peters. Peters resigned from his position on Nov 29.

Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Marc Crawford—a former head coach with Colorado, Dallas, Vancouver, and Ottawa—has been suspended as the league investigates for his behaviours.

Daniel Carcillo, a former player on a mission against hockey’s toxic culture, told VICE he had received hundreds of stories regarding abuse perpetrated by coaches or other people in positions of power. Carcillo said that the stories are only starting to come out.

“If you're a coach out there that hasn't been named yet and you know that you've abused someone that's coming, your name will be named,” Carcillo said.

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