In a bit of stunning news, the Dallas Stars fired coach Jim Montgomery on Tuesday morning, citing "unprofessional conduct" as the reason for his dismissal. Stars assistant Rick Bowness will take over for Montgomery in an interim capacity.
"The Dallas Stars expect all of our employees to act with integrity and exhibit professional behavior while working for and representing our organization," said Stars general manager Jim Nill in a team 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."
Nill met with media on Tuesday afternoon and said that, on Sunday, he was made aware of a "material act of unprofessionalism" committed by Montgomery last week. Nill would not discuss the incident out of respect for the people involved but said that no players or team employees were involved. He also said no criminal investigation was involved.
The dismissal came as a major surprise on Tuesday, especially given the fact that Dallas has been playing well of late (they were one of the league's best teams during the month of November) and there were no indications that Montgomery's job was in jeopardy. Given the team's performance and how quickly the club acted in dismissing the coach, it seems likely whatever incident took place was quite serious.
The firing comes amid a reckoning of sorts surrounding misconduct from NHL coaches. Montgomery is the second NHL coach to be ousted for inappropriate behavior in less than a month. Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters resigned from the club in November after a former player, Akim Aliu, came forward and alleged that Peters used racial slurs in the locker room -- something Peters later admitted to be true. Peters was also accused of physically abusing players while coaching with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Montgomery's firing also comes one day after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman outlined new policies to crack down on misconduct, particularly from coaches across the league. During a press conference at the NHL Board of Governors meetings, Bettman stated that the league was caught off-guard by the Peters allegations and, moving forward, there will be "zero tolerance" for teams failing to notify the league of misconduct. Bettman also said that teams that failed to report such incidents would be subject to "severe discipline" from the league.
"Going forward, our clubs are on notice that if they become aware of an incident of conduct involving NHL personnel on or off the ice that is clearly inappropriate, unlawful or demonstrably abusive, or that may violate the League's policies, involving NHL Club personnel, on or off the ice, we at the League office – Bill Daly or me – must be immediately advised," said Bettman. "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."
According to reports, Bettman and the NHL knew of the Montgomery situation prior to Monday's press conference but did not address it because it was unrelated to the allegations of racism and physical abuse that sparked the league's new policies. Nill also confirmed that the firing did not relate to the discussion points on Monday.
Last night, at the Board of Governors meeting, we asked if there were any investigations underway for abuse/racial comments that we were not aware of. The answer was no. Whatever happened with Jim Montgomery in Dallas, it does not fall under that umbrella.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) December 10, 2019
Montgomery, 50, was hired by the Stars in May of 2018 and was in his second season on the job. Dallas went 43-32-7 in Montgomery's only full season and lost in the second round of the playoffs.