In case you missed the news yesterday, the Florida Panthers dismissed assistant coach Mike Kitchen rather abruptly. Kitchen, who was hired just a year ago, will “not return as assistant” coach is all that the Panthers would say about the matter, but a report from TSN insiders Frank Seravalli and Darren Dreger seems to allege that Kitchen was forced to step down from his position with the team after an alleged physical encounter with a Panthers player.
Check it out:
Now a day later, Seravalli is pulling back the curtain a bit on this alleged physical encounter in a new column for TSN and… well just check out these quotes:
According to sources, the alleged incident occurred in the third period of Florida’s win in Minnesota on Jan. 20. A Panthers player threw a water bottle on the bench in frustration, dousing Kitchen, who allegedly kicked the player in response.
One source described Kitchen’s kick as “full on,” saying he “reared back and booted [him] in the lower back in anger,” as a result of being soaked.
“This certainly wasn’t a friendly tap of encouragement,” the source said. “There’s no place for anything like that in the game.”
What’s interesting though is that Kitchen continued to coach with the team up until the league went on hiatus in March due to COVID-19. Kitchen did not joint the team in the Toronto bubble citing personal, family reasons. At the time, Kitchen said that his decision to not join the Panthers was “difficult decision to say the least, but the right decision for me and my family.” The Panthers said then they “fully support this decision.”
When the Panthers were eliminated in the NHL’s Qualifying Series, head coach Joel Quenneville confirmed that Kitchen, and his entire coaching staff, would return for the 2020-21 season. Obviously something has changed in that regard.
“I know Kitch, and in a lot of ways, I know exactly what makes him work and I think we’ve got a great working relationship,” Quenneville said at the time. Again, obviously this decision wasn’t made by Quenneville himself, but rather by someone more “higher up” on the Panthers’ executive depth chart. Newly hired GM Bill Zito? Owner Vinny Viola? Who knows?