GM quits after coach fired
By JEFF GARD Northumberland Today
Former head coach Justin Teakle (front) and former general manager Todd Diminie chat while watching the Cobourg Cougars rookie camp at the Cobourg Community Centre in May of 2011. JEFF GARD File Photo
COBOURG Guiding the Cobourg Cougars hockey club to its best regular season ever at the junior A hockey level wasnt enough for Justin Teakle to save his job for another year.
Teakle, after just one season behind the Cougars bench, was fired this past Friday as the clubs head coach. The move, made by ownership, didnt sit well with general manager Todd Diminie, who resigned from his position the following day.
Cobourg compiled a 37-9-3 mark to finish second in the Ontario Junior Hockey Leagues East Division one point behind first-place Trenton and fifth overall in the entire 27-team loop. The Cougars received a first-round playoff bye for their efforts, but were quickly dispatched by the Whitby Fury in five games in the East Division semifinals.
Teakle said Monday that while exit meetings at the end of the season didnt go smoothly, he did fully expect to be back coaching the Cougars for one more year, at least.
I was told by management after those meetings about five days later I would be back and Todd would be the GM, Teakle remarked. There were rumours I was looking for another job, but that was not the case. I had signed a two-year deal here...I was looking for us to build on (the 2011-2012 season).
Teakle also didnt appreciate the way the firing was handled. He was golfing Friday when he received a phone call from Cougars governor Marc Mercier, who also had minority owner Scott Mackie on the line.
Teakle said he knew something was up when Mackie was included on the call, because he had spoken maybe five words with him all season.
I didnt know he was even still part of the ownership group, Teakle added.
Mercier and Mackie told him they were moving in another direction, Teakle said, noting he would have preferred a face-to-face meeting.
Teakle didnt understand the timing of the move. The firing, he said, would have made more sense shortly after the season ended. Instead, he was relieved of his duties one week before the Cougars hold their annual rookie camp (this weekend at the Cobourg Community Centre).
Mercier, when contacted by e-mail, opted not to comment at this time.
Teakle thanked Diminie for his loyalty, knowing the tough decision was like a difficult one for the Cobourg native to resign as the clubs general manager.
I really wanted Todd Diminie to win a championship for the hometown Cobourg Cougars, Teakle said. (The resignation) shows the type of loyalty not everybody has right now.
Diminie, in a separate interview, said not only was it a great accomplishment for Teakle to lead the Cougars to a junior A franchise-best 77 points, they also registered a best winning percentage of .786 and finished five times in the Top 20 rankings from the Canadian Junior Hockey League. In addition, they were consistently in second place in the East Division all season, narrowly missing out finishing in first at the end of the 49-game schedule.
I am very disappointed that they fired Justin Teakle, Diminie said. I think its unfair to Justin. He deserves the chance to come back and build on what we started last season. I love being a part of the Cougars, but at the end of the day, I have to resign. I dont support their decision to fire Justin.
Diminie said he was not told of the move in advance and found out directly from the fired coach before he received a phone call from Mercier about 20 minutes later.
Im really disappointed. We built something special and the community was on board and coming behind it, Diminie said. Thank you to all the staff and the volunteers of the Cougars and, best of all, the fans.
Marketing director Kelly Martin who was runner-up for the OJHLs Executive of the Year award has also resigned. Diminie and Martin are partners. She said they live and breathe hockey and have a unique circumstance. They are a team at home and at the hockey arena and therefore she couldnt stay on board.
This past season, about $20,000 was raised for local organizations and charity groups as the Cougars hosted a different group at each home game. Through all of her work with the Cougars, bringing the charity groups on board was the most rewarding, she said.
I plan to stay involved with my charity groups, said Martin. Im told the Cougars will continue with the charity nights, she added.
Martin also took pride in seeing the Cougars top all teams in attendance this past season.
I hope the fans still go out and support the Cougars, she said.
Martin is staying on board temporarily to assist with the transition to a new marketing director. Diminie is also willing to help out in the transition to new management.
Perry Bowles who was general manager of the Cougars a few years back and spent the past two years working as a director for the Ontario Hockey Association was hired last week as the Cougars new director of hockey operations. Diminie previously held the director of hockey operations post before becoming the general manager prior to last season.
On Monday night, Curtis Hodgins was announced as the new head coach. Hodgins is coming off a very successful season and playoff run with the Whitby Fury. After eliminating the Cougars, the Fury advanced all the way to the OJHL final where they lost the Buckland Cup to the Stouffville Spirit in six games.
Diminie worked with both Bowles and Hodgins with the former Bowmanville Eagles organization, which merged with Cobourg in 2010. He would have enjoyed working with both of them again, but that wasnt a factor in his resignation.
I thank ownership for the opportunity (to be general manager), Diminie said. I just dont agree with their decision (to fire Teakle).
One thing Teakle believes needs to be kept in perspective is that the OJHL is a development league where players have ambitions to move on to higher levels, especially the Ontario Hockey League or NCAA college hockey. As disappointing as it was watching his team eliminated from the playoffs so quickly, the thing that disappoints Teakle the most coming out of this past season was that none of his players received offers from Division 1 schools (the highest level they could play in NCAA hockey).
Im very passionate about winning, but Im even more passionate about player development. Thats what I do for a living, said Teakle, who is the director of PASS Hockey. The OJHL is a development league. It is not professional hockey. It is an elite league, but for development.
Teakle came from the Streetsville Derbys, who merged with Cobourg after the 2010-2011 campaign. He thanked his former owner Tom Baker who became a minority owner of the Cougars as well as players who came with him like Nick Marinac, Franco Loparco and Loren Ulett. He also wished the best for all of the players he coached this season.
Word of Teakles firing quickly spread over the Internet on Friday, including on social media tools like Twitter.
Kingston Voyageurs head coach Colin Birkas tweeted Friday through his handle @birkas613: Setting a franchise record in points not enough anymore? @justin_teakle sorry to hear the news.
Birkas was responding to a tweet posted by Teakle.
I'm proud of the work we did in Cobourg, true character is tested through adversity, Ill be back, thanks for the support of many, mainly Tom Harrison, Todd Diminie, Kelly Martin, Erica Davis, Joe Aiello, Dan Stewart and especially Tom Baker. Last tweet as part of the Cobourg Cougars.