Kelowna Rockets fire head coach Adam Foote, father of the WHL team's captain
Coaching change comes 3 months prior to the team hosting the Memorial Cup
The Kelowna Rockets have fired head coach Adam Foote, three months ahead of hosting the Canadian Hockey League's 2020 Memorial Cup tournament in the B.C. city.
Foote, a former NHL defenceman, has coached the Rockets since October 2018 and had a record of 24 wins and 30 losses so far this season.
"He was classy," said Rockets' owner and general manager Bruce Hamilton when asked how Foote took the news Wednesday of his firing from Kelowna's Western Hockey League team.
"I've had the opportunity to do this a few times to different people when we have let them go and this was the most classy guy that I have ever dealt with."
Foote's son Nolan is team captain
Foote is also the father of the Rockets' team captain Nolan Foote.
Hamilton said he had not yet spoken to Nolan about the coaching change.
"I have quite a bit of sympathy for Nolan Foote today," Hamilton said.
"I know he is going to come back and be a great player and a great captain for us."
Memorial Cup host team
The firing comes with just 14 games left in the regular season for the WHL club in a year the team is hosting the Memorial Cup tournament — a competition between the top teams in the Canadian Hockey League.
As host team, the Rockets are guaranteed a spot in the four-team tournament, however Kelowna is at risk of performing poorly according to WHL scout and freelance hockey writer Larry Fisher.
"This is a pretty unprecedented for a host team struggle this badly," Fisher said in an interview with CBC News.
"A lot of people expect them to be swept in four games [in the WHL playoffs] and then sitting on the sidelines until they have to play the three best teams in the Canadian Hockey League."
The Rockets named assistant coach Kris Mallette as Foote's replacement in an interim position.
The 2020 Memorial Cup Tournament begins on May 22 in Kelowna.