Former coach still hopes to mend fences
PARRSBORO - The former coach of the Fundy Phantoms is holding out hope fences can be mended so the team's players can focus on what's happening on the ice instead of off it.
"The main thing here is the players," Paul Atkinson said. "Our main objective is to keep the players on the ice. I hope we can still come together and work out our differences so things can get back to normal."
Atkinson was fired last week by Phantoms' owners Jeannie and Paul Morris. He was surprised to learn of the firing and feels it may be related to the coaches' decision to release two players, one of which was the Morris' son, Richard.
Atkinson claims both players requested their releases because they were unable to make the time commitment required to remain with the team.
"We had to make some decisions because we had 26 players in camp," Atkinson said. "She (Jeannie) wasn't quite happy with some of the decisions we made as a coaching staff."
When Atkinson was fired, other members of his coaching staff, including Kevin Misken and Kevin St. Peter, and executive members Cheryl St. Peter and Tammy Cormier resigned.
Team president Paul Morris, who is back behind the bench, said Atkinson was relieved of his duties because he felt the team needed to take a new direction.
"I can't say anything bad about the guy. We just weren't all pulling the same rope," Morris said. "It was interfering with the on-ice product, in my opinion, and I guess the proof is in the pudding. The boys were all smiling on Sunday, and they played one of their better games. If that's any indication of what they can do, then we can only go in one direction."
Morris did not criticize the job Atkinson was doing as coach, but said battles in the boardroom were affecting on-ice performance.
"When the players are worried about what's going on in the boardroom, you have a problem," Morris said. "It was a hard choice for me to make, but it just became a power struggle and was affecting everything else."
Atkinson said the team's bank account has been frozen and a number of sponsors have requested refunds of their contributions to the team.
"Hopefully there can be some mediation between the two groups," Atkinson said.
One thing Atkinson denied are rumours he and other executive members were looking to bolt from Parrsboro to Springhill. While he and others considered putting an expansion team in Springhill last spring, they decided instead to work with the Parrsboro group to ice the best team possible.
"Things were going good until they felt we were trying to take the team out of Parrsboro. That was never once mentioned," he said. "We were willing to work with Parrsboro and we agreed we'd be playing and practicing in Parrsboro."
(With files from Andrew Wagstaff)