Yup, I’ve Been Fired!

Please understand that this isn’t something I wanted to write — it’s something I felt I had to write.  Shortly you’ll know why.

This entry is also a little late, again for reasons I’ll need to explain.

Ya, you read that title (and various other posts around the Internet) right.

So, why did I feel the need to address all the gory details here?  It’s because I’d spent months hyping the new Tropical Elite Hockey League, I’d promoted my new team to every hockey and social media contact I had (literally around the world), and I’d posted regularly throughout Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.  I even had some fun telling about the exploits of little Raggs and me in transition — from our lifelong home in Massachusetts to the day to day grind of me being a GM/hockey coach down here in the Sunshine State.  With that, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to just suddenly change my work status without answering a myriad of questions (from upwards of 15,000 on-line folks).  So, sadly, the explanation is to follow…

The reason I stalled a bit on this announcement was so I wouldn’t rattle a number of great young hockey players who were still exploring opportunities in the TEHL.  There was nothing I could do about the guys I’d already enlisted for my original team (hopefully those kids and parents will come to understand), but I knew I surely could save the few who were still up in the air.  (And, thank God, I was able to place a few awesome players elsewhere.)

Okay, so about the firing…  It actually took place in what some friends have called a “classless” act — in an email that arrived in my inbox at 1-minute before midnight on September 1.  (Just that might give you an indication of what kind of person I’d been “working for” over a few short months.)  Needless to say, I spent a number of hours that night staring up at my ceiling, and on occasion climbing out of bed to pace when sleep wouldn’t come.  If you can appreciate it, I’d never been fired from anything in my entire adult life.  So, classless?  Well, you decide…

Actually, I think the situation started badly — on at least two fronts…

First, I don’t think I was hand picked by my team owner, but instead suggested to her by the league’s Commissioner.  In other words, she likely felt no loyalty to me, and she didn’t know me from Adam.  (At the same time, I suspect I was placed with her for good reason — so that she could rely upon my years of experience over a long and grueling season of high level hockey.)

Secondly, we never even communicated until close to two months after I’d been appointed.  She’s a shrimp boat owner from Alaska, you see, and she was evidently extremely busy in her work until very recently.

Then, if there’s a third thing that went wrong in that relationship, it’s that our first ever conversation had to be about money.  That’s not a favorite topic of mine, and I’m wondering how many other folks feel the same.  Still, I had to ask her at one point if she’d perhaps reimburse me for a very costly trip I had to make — for the team’s sake — to the league’s first tryout camp in Florida.

I’m not the type to take advantage of such situations, so I did everything economy-style, and didn’t even submit receipts for things others might have.  No matter, getting reimbursed proved a slight nightmare.  In fact, in reflection, I think the entire fiasco ended up being all about money…

As many of my closest friends know, I perceived my new assignment as my “dream job“.  And, just like I began with other new positions over my 40-years in coaching, I really dug in, beginning the night I was hired.  From that moment on, I (maybe wrongly) even abandoned other work back home to start building my team.

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t connect with my owner for so long because it appeared that the Commissioner was pretty much dealing in her behalf while she took care of the shrimping.  That worked for me, because I had plenty to do over those first few months.  In fact, already believing I’d make a fairly decent salary once I got on the job, it didn’t initially bother me that I was spending a lot of my own money — mainly going to player showcases and racking up some hefty cell phone bills (picture calls to numerous US states and Canadian provinces, as well as to far away countries like Latvia and Germany).

Now, I’m the sort to think in pictures (a visual guy is what I am), so I knew I needed a timetable for how things would work:  when my players would need to start school, when the first practices would be, etc.  In other words, back in May, I’d have loved to have been able to look at a calendar and visually see deadlines of all sorts.  Knowing such things also would have made it easier for me to plan my physical move from Massachusetts to Florida.  Unfortunately, nothing more than a permissible start date for practice ice-time came early enough to help me…

Sometime in late June, things did turn a bit.  Suddenly the Commissioner thought it important for me to get down south and on the job — like in a hurry.  Whoa!  I had a huge house and a separate downtown office to empty.  And, looking at the combination of what I’d already spent and what it would cost to relocate, I thought it a good idea to know that I’d begin getting a paycheck once I did get on the job.  Those things in mind, I suggested a relatively sane date for both the owner’s sake and mine, with August 1 giving me about a month to get a whole lot of things done back home.  I think the owner’s response was, “That’s fine.”  Oh, it didn’t sound like a thrilled or enthusiastic response, but…

At this point, I have to ask you:  What amount of money would you have been willing to spend in order to do something you thought you were going to really love?  Well, I’d said good-bye to nearly $5000 by the time I arrived in Florida, and it crept closer to $7000 by September 1.

Okay, so those money issues…

At a time when I could have really used the cash flow, a money order reimbursing me for the tryout expenses arrived botched (it took about 5-days to come in the mail from Alaska to Florida, and it was dawgone unsigned, which caused my bank to inform me that it wouldn’t be good to use for about 7-days).    The night before that check did clear, my debit card was rejected at a grocery store as I attempted to buy that night’s dinner.  (Talk about wanting to cry.)

That experience — of dealing with checks from far away Alaska — confirmed what my banker had advised me, in that my paychecks should be done as direct deposits.

Of course, I still had the need to use my cell phone — and actually all my own resources — for the sake of recruiting and conducting other team business.   So, I thought it time to ask my owner about at least helping with the telephone charges, suggesting that she might arrange a company phone for me.

Her answer to both the direct deposit and telephone questions was, “I’ll have to think about.”  With that, she sailed to sea on her shrimp boat for about a week.

I’ll ask you again, just how much of your own money would you have put into what I was doing?  No matter, because that was just about it for me.  I was close to broke, mainly from spending all my own money on my owner’s business…

Many Facebook friends must have wondered what was going on when I posted the accompanying photo along with the claim that I was temporarily off the job.  You see, two weeks had gone by since I arrived in Florida, and the best answer I could get about a paycheck was that my owner would think about it.

Of course, if she rejected the idea of making direct deposits, I’d be left to wait 5- to 7-days for a check to arrive, and then a possible week more for it to clear.  If she rejects my request for a company phone, I’m going to continue to shell out tons of my own money to do business for her.  So, I ask you yet another question:  Who benefits from all these stall tactics?  Ha!

Well, despite getting some crap (from her and other unnamed sources), I evidently did get my owner’s attention.  I mean, she agreed to send me $1500 (how the heck she arrived at that number I’ll never know).  Of course, she must have been chuckling at my pain, as that money order (this time signed) came by way of the usual Alaskan Pony Express.

By the way, I think it’s been well established (over about 40-years) that I love what I do.  I’m also nobody’s fool, and I wasn’t really about to quit recruiting, despite saying so.  No, as I later told her and the league Commissioner, “I never missed a stroke” during that time I’d threatened to sit out.

Okay, so why do I think I got canned?

To begin, it’s my understanding that my owner put up $5000 for the right to fire me.  (Please don’t laugh at the fact that I’ve invested more so far than she has; it pains me too much.)  And my job was to recruit enough players to help make her next league payment.  (Again, don’t laugh, just because it’s her GM/coach’s blood, sweat and tears — not to mention mostly his money — that would help her to continue to be an owner!)  Well, while I didn’t by any means have a full roster yet, my understanding was that I wasn’t doing badly compared to most others.  In fact, I was told several times by league personnel that I was doing better than others.  Actually, a few more recruits submitted contracts after my firing, and yet more interested players are still becoming available from teams and leagues that are folding, from tryout camps where they didn’t make the cut, etc.  So, just to sort through all that, there would have been plenty of players long-term, but I believe my owner was more concerned with not waiting, and not needing to use her own money to keep things going.

If she can hang anything on me, it’s that certain other things I should have accomplished haven’t yet been done.  If I have any excuses — about finding housing for some kids, or finding jobs for some others, here goes…  First, I’m uneasy about putting extreme pressure on a few local folks who volunteered to help.  Secondly, if you get the sense that I’m all alone down here, you’re right.  My owner has threatened to come for several weeks, and still hasn’t shown.  Moreover, with her asking far too often how many kids I had signed, I too often dropped those other projects and jumped right back on the recruiting.  Again, I’ve been alone here, and I could only do one thing at a time.

Here’s the bottom line, though, along with a final question…  How well would you function if you were trapped to extremely low resources?  I’ll tell you this:  I can shift into overwhelm mode when I’m worried about bills.  And, faced with still having to pay for all my recruiting efforts, just imagine how I feared making or taking too many long distance calls, or buying the gas to attend meetings or games where recruits might be seen.  In other words, while my owner was crying about needing more players to pay her bills, she was actually keeping me poor and hampering my ability to reach those players.  Some might call that “penny wise and pound foolish”, but I spell it “S-T-U-P-I-D”!

You might even laugh at me again, as I tell you that I spent $30 on gas to travel to and from Orlando for a showcase — on the two nights leading up to my firing.  Maybe you’ll also laugh at me, knowing that I’ve been paid a grand total of $1500 for exactly one month’s time on the job (from August 1 to September 1).  To this day, she still owes me about $50 that was missing from my reimbursement check.  (At first I thought that was just a clerical error, but not after following her track record.  My guess:  She just tried to beat me out of that money.)

Lastly, although I’m far from home and without a job right now, and although my reputation might be slightly tarnished, I’m almost relieved to be relieved.  In all my conversations with that woman, I found her kinda hard to like — a hockey mom with power and (supposed?) money (some of it still mine).

*

Footnote 1:  If there’s another reason I needed to write this, it’s for closure.  So, unlike any other post I’ve ever written, this one is only staying visible for awhile — mainly so it answers friends’ questions, and somehow unwrenches my gut (punching a keyboard is more productive than other alternatives).

Footnote 2:  Shortly after my firing, a friend asked who might replace me.  A light suddenly came on, and I blurted out, “Someone like that doesn’t pull the trigger unless she already had a coach more to her liking (like someone she can control, and get for even less money)!”  God help him.  Hopefully he sees this, too, so that he might find a way to be paid in advance.

Footnote 3:  I’ve already explained why I believe I was fired — mainly because I didn’t recruit enough players to fund her next steps in the team purchase.  However, once that team is full, she and her players are going to miss what I could have done for them — in the way of coaching and readying them to please scouts, and in making the necessary college and pro contacts several months down the road.

Footnote 4:  In case anyone is wondering what the current recruiting process is like, I need to start by saying that a lot of potential recruits don’t exactly tell the truth.  Oh, some players are sincere from the get-go, and they either sign or don’t sign fairly quickly.  The majority of kids, however, only let the GM know that they’re “fairly interested”.  The GM seldom gets a real explanation, but they likely know that they’re going to attend a number of other tryouts before making a final decision.  Some have dreams of a higher level, some are hoping to make a team closer to home, some are hoping to avoid paying to play — or paying less than our league, and so on.  As you can see, then, it’s a drawn out process, that requires numerous follow-ups — in the way of phone calls, emails, social media messages, etc.  And that’s something my owner both failed to realize and actually hampered me in doing.

Footnote 5:  There are folks “out there” who are hoping the TEHL fails.  And, upon first glance, someone is going to think the above is good fodder for them to write about and cheer about.  Sorry, SH, but this is a story about one difficult owner, and not an indictment of the league and its concept.  The other owners and coaches I’ve met or talked with so far are hard at it, and doing things the right way.  For sure I feel at least slightly wronged by the league, but that’s an issue for another time.

Footnote 6:  Do I believe anyone could have helped save my job — other than me, or a smarter owner?  I guess I’m going to leave that to the consciences of a number of folks.  I did surely take note of the calls and messages that came in (or didn’t come in) right after the firing.  In fact, my first Facebook post on the morning after noted that, “The silence is deafening!”  Ya, and some still haven’t said a word.

Footnote 7:  What’s going to come of me and Raggs?  Well, God’s had answers in the past, and I’m betting he has another one in store for us.  Stay tuned.

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21 Comments on “Yup, I’ve Been Fired!”

  1. Pcj Pres. Says:

    Chic, your no stranger to this game and understand quality programs and not so quality…. As a team owner I guess I need to ask a few questions. Did you have a contract from the owner, our was the arrangements made by Sterling Wright Commissioner of the TEHL?.. If the later then Sterling needs to make good on all the promises… If the ownerofthe so called team, then take her to court. The questioni have I show would someone with 40 years experience get in this situation? This is not God’s work!
    As for the league, I pray ever day they make it, because this is another Black eye on junior hockey… But fact is it was a dream trying to be put together on a shoe string budget. I think it will be a solid 2-3 team league this year, which is ok, you have to start somewhere, but eight teams no.. Last question where was the league protection for you coaches?.. I know for a fact that nomowners were vetted and most can not afford town hockey teams, this business needs hundreds of thousands to run and can note run with just tuition money, let alone start with tuition money. My bet is that this owner you had has the first clue about owning anything let alone a hockey team. The party that should be sued first is the league for putting you in this situation, but I am not sure how much money the league has. They will need to show that they properly vetted owners in the league and passed standard (proper standard) they have set. My guess is they don’t have any standards. Just want to be a hockey league. You need to make large noise on this issue, because people need to know you can treat people or the hockey world like this…

    But once again…. You learned a hard lesson…

    • Coach Chic Says:

      To begin, I apologize for never seeing this comment until just this minute. On the positive side, I surely have had a lot of added time to reflect on all that transpired, and I also know a whole lot more today about what took place than I did way back in May through August of this year.

      As for my part, I admit to being absolutely naive going in. To be perfectly honest, over my 40-ish years in the game, I hadn’t met very many people who didn’t stand by their word (so a contract going in wasn’t first on my mind). As I’ve advised younger folks through the years, hockey is a pretty small circle, and one doesn’t get away with nonsense without everyone shortly knowing about it. With that, anyone could certainly blame me for being overly trusting.

      In answer to your question about league appointments… Yes, Mr Wright found all the owners, and he also, for the most part, connected owners with their GMs/coaches. In my case, I didn’t even get to talk with my team’s owner — online and by phone — until a couple of months after being appointed (by Mr Wright). As a matter of fact, I never even got to see her face to face.

      I think I could also be blamed for my innate enthusiasm. I mean, I really get psyched about any project I take on, and I was overly so being part of something as new and as exciting as the TEHL promised to be.

      You might also know that I very much believed in the premise of that new league, and I continue to feel the same today. I’d even try to employ some of the best ideas if I was to venture into Junior hockey again.

      All that said, there were probably three things wrong with the league… For sure, Mr Wright was the wrong guy to lead the way. (Actually, I think I could have pulled it off had I the chance.) In retrospect, a year of laying the groundwork would have been ideal, rather than the few months most clubs had. As for the owners, I know now that they mostly had to be picked by Mr Wright for their ability to come up with some quick cash, but — at least for most of them — not for their ability to hang in for the long haul. (In my opinion, some of the hockey people were mismatched with owners, because I sense that a few of us GMs/coaches might be still going strong today if we had connected with one of the more sincere and financially stable owners.)

      About the only thing I beg to differ on is the importance of player tuitions. For sure, you’re right about that not being a team’s total income potential. Still, the roughtly $150,000 generated by those would have gotten full teams underway, and then given them a chance to really market their teams and prepare better for the next season. (As I tried to convince my owner, our first season’s main goal should have been to survive and to keep our promises to the players and their parents. That underway, I was looking forward to gradually building a highly prized organization heading into our second season.)

      Again, my apologies for not seeing this earlier, and I do really appreciate your comments.


  2. Hey Coach. As a 25 year coach myself working with bad owners, classless athletes, and parents with the my kid is going to the show attitude are all part of the game. You are an amazing coach and in all honesty if you were in Canada you most likely would carry legendary status. I am at the other end of the country and up a little higher in Vancouver Canada but if i can help in anyway just you ask and I will give it

    • Coach Chic Says:

      Thanks for those really kind words. If I could share one thing with you — as a young coach, it would be that an owner like I’ve described is an exception rather than the norm. I’ll enter my next assignment with as much enthusiasm as I ever have, and I want you to do the same. Always be positive, and always put the well being of your players first.

  3. Linda Says:

    I am so sorry to hear this;. You know that I have the UTMOST respect for you and know that you are the most fantastic coach and person I have ever spoken to about all things hockey related. You and my other coach friend (SW) are 2 of the most sincere and honest people I know. God bless you and I know he WILL provide for you. I will be praying that the best job will come along for you!!

    • Coach Chic Says:

      Thanks for that, Linda, but you humble me. I know God is watching out for me, and that something better will come along.

  4. Eileen Says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this, Dennis! I’ve even heard my 2 grandsons say that Coach Chic is the best. It has got to hurt beyond words to think of the blood, sweat and tears that you put into this and then just get s**t on. I truly hope that there is a silver lining to all you’ve been through. To you and Raggs, I wish you nothing but the best!


  5. COACH, I AM SORRY TO HEAR ABOUT THIS UNFORTUNATE SITUATION. PLEASE KNOW I CONSIDER YOU TO BE AN OUTSTANDING COACH. HOPE YOU FIND A BETTER OPPORTUNITY QUICKLY. GOOD LUCK.

  6. Don Parsons Says:

    Very Brutal and extremely unprofessional. Good Luck Dennis.

    • Coach Chic Says:

      Thanks, Donny. And, while that’s how I feel, too, that might be the way things work in the shrimping industry. :/

  7. Deb Kolaras Says:

    Ugh, Dennis. Thanks for sharing this with us, friend. One door closes, another one opens. In this case, no amount of persistent professionalism on your part could have made up for what sounds like a very shaky business model. Money orders? Who conducts business like this? I hope the next few days reveal a much better situation for you.

    • Coach Chic Says:

      Ya, Deb, and you’ve pretty much said what I’ve been feeling — that a new and even better door will open shortly. As for the business model, I think the error was either in the way things were explained to my former owner, or the way in which she interpreted it. The money orders are another thing all together… Imagine having something against direct deposits, UNLESS her intent was to just tease me with the long waits. Thanks for your support, Smiley. 🙂


  8. Coach,

    I’m shocked and very saddened to read of the situation for you down in Florida.

    I’ve known you online through Twitter and Facebook for approximately two years and I’ve known you to be a wonderful man who loves hockey and who loves teaching young players the skills they need to succeed in the sport of hockey.

    There is not a person in this world who can make me believe that you deserved to be fired from your position of GM/coach of this hockey team. The owner of the team sounds like she knows absolutely zero about business and even less about running a hockey team and its personnel. Owners like that should not be permitted to have a team in the league if they don’t know how to properly run a franchise and how to treat their staff.

    I only wish we had someone like you up here working on the staff of our Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) team, the PEI Rocket. They seem to be lacking something as they haven’t made the playoffs many times in their 10 years here on PEI and on those occasions that they have made it, they’ve never made it past the first round.

    Please don’t take this unfortunate event as a negative mark against a previously unblemished career. Any person who has half a brain would see that you were set up to fail by a greedy owner who expects the world for free. Your kind heart made you give of yourself as much as you could and perhaps even more than you could. I sincerely think it’s a good thing you were let go because now it will allow you to do something where you’re appreciated for your heart, desire, knowledge, and love of the game of hockey.

    You’re the best…there’s something better in the future for you..I know it.

    You’re pure class, Coach. The way you handled writing the above blog shows it. You could have ripped this woman to shreds in your post but you chose to take the high road and stay classy…and that’s the Coach Chic I know and have become very fond of.

    Keep me posted on what happens next, my friend.

    Warmest Regards,

    Jeff Docherty
    PEI, Canada (originally of Wellesley Hills, MA)

    • Coach Chic Says:

      Darn, Jeff, I’m humbled by all of that.

      Yes, I love teaching the game, I love working with young players (and their parents), and I’d have loved seeing if I could get the Thunder guys where they wanted to go. However, as you and many others have suggested, I’ll probably get another chance along the way, and it’ll likely be under far better working conditions than that job.

      Thanks, old friend, and I SHALL keep you informed on whatever does come of me now.

  9. Melissa Says:

    Wow Coach I’m so sorry to hear that someone would take advantage of you like that. You do pour your heart and soul into your work and players. Because of you my son’s favorite sport is Hockey! You are a mentor that he will never forget…None of us will up here in NE….Stay warm and keep pushing ahead better things will come.

    • Coach Chic Says:

      Thanks so much for that, Melissa. And maybe I’ll at least have an interesting story to tell someday when this ordeal is really put to rest. Please say Hi to your husband and my young buddy. Maybe I’ll get up to see you guys again one day, or you guys might visit me down here. Thanks so much again.


  10. I’m sorry to hear how things worked out for you, Coach, but at least now you can focus on moving forward. Best of luck!

    • Coach Chic Says:

      True enough, Dirk. I guess we all deserve a few days of sulking. However, shortly after those few days, I got back to work in numerous other areas of my hockey business. You can expect another article here in a few days (just waiting on some further fodder), my CoachChic.com site deserves plenty of attention, and I’ve yet to even release my Skater’s Rhythm-bar to the public.

  11. carlincomm Says:

    Hey Coach, Dang, sorry, I haven’t been online much in the last month, so sorry to hear about this turn of luck. I’d be surprised if someone else doesn’t pick you up, you’ve got a good program, maybe just a little rough ice there to deal with!


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