Bill Rotheisler says he was blindsided by the team’s decision to axe him- but his main concern is for the players.

Rebels’ coach blindsided by his firing

“I did not see it coming,” says Rotheisler of his dismissal this week

The former coach of the Castlegar Rebels hockey team says he has no clue as to why he was fired this week.

“I don’t know what happened, to be honest with you,” says Bill Rotheisler. “I’m still waiting for my official papers that would explain the reason. I would love to provide you with an answer.”

Rotheisler found out this week that the board of directors of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League team was terminating his contract a year early. He says he was blindsided by the decision, and had no clue anything was amiss with his tenure as coach.

“I did not see it coming,” he told the Castlegar News. “They have a semi-annual governors’ meeting, and you rarely send your coach there because important decisions are being made, and I even went there, and that was a week ago,” he said.

Mike Johnstone, president of the Rebels, said the team’s board met Monday, April 30, and “we decided to go in a different direction,” but wouldn’t elaborate on reasons for Rotheisler’s dismissal. He added, “we are restructuring our hockey team” and said the Rebels hoped to have a replacement “pretty quick.”

Rotheisler says he had no hard feelings.

“At the end of the day they are entitled to make the decisions they make. If somebody doesn’t like you or visions something else, it is completely in their realm of what they are empowered to do,” he says. “As long as they hold up their end of the contract they can do that. I would not hold that against them.”

Rotheisler says he still has a lot of respect for a lot of people in the organization.

“I say this with no disrespect to anybody. (Rebels President) Mike Johnstone is faced with a lot of stuff, has a lot of things to juggle. I hold nothing against Mike.”

And in the end, he’s philosophical about it.

“I’ve been doing this a long time. Coaches get fired, it’s part of the gig. I understand I need to do this and that, and there are things I need to do better, like anyone. But I am very proud of program we’ve had over the last two years.”

Rotheisler helped the Rebels to a second place finish in the Neil Murdoch Division of the KIJHL last season. The team also eliminated last year’s champions, the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, from the playoffs in the first round. The coach says he’s as proud of his team’s accomplishments off-ice as on.

“I’ve done a lot of reflecting and talking, and I would say in all facets we’ve had tremendous success,” he says. “We’re the only team in our division to have two 30-win seasons. But it’s so much more than wins and losses.

“We brought in some great people, really stuck to the quality of person and character we brought in. And I look at how much work we’ve done in the community, I’m really proud of the boys spending as much time as they do. They do work for fundraising, help with the Special Olympics, go to schools,” he said. “We’ve never really said ‘no’ to the community. We do what we can do, whether it be skating programs, Breakfast with Santa, those things.

“I think we have a unreal staff that works so hard, and a group of players that mimic that and work so hard… I was really proud of what we had.”

Rotheisler says his biggest concern now is for his former players.

“Even when you are fired your first instinct is to make sure your boys are OK,” he says. “At that age it’s really hard to comprehend some things. I feel it is kind of my job as the coach still to make sure they understand the situation and they are not going to make any rash decisions that are going to affect them in the long term.

“…at the end of the day I still want the message to be they still have to work hard, and still have to do what they do and continue to have a good winning season.”

Rotheisler came to Castlegar in 2016, in a career that has taken him to Princeton, Creston, Comox, and the Okanagan Valley. While he says he doesn’t know what’s happening next in his life, he says he’ll be OK.

“I’m confident I’ll be alright,” he says. “In the end they don’t need me, I think they are going to have a winning team and a great group of guys and I’ll still be proud for making that next coach’s life a bit easier.”

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