Bruins fire Sullivan after two seasons as coach

Updated: June 28, 2006, 8:38 AM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins' ongoing, wide-ranging overhaul finally reached the head coach.

The NHL franchise fired Mike Sullivan on Tuesday, ending weeks of speculation. Sullivan had led the team for the past two seasons.

The Bruins were expected to hire a new head coach by the weekend.

Sullivan said he sensed his firing was inevitable.

"Am I disappointed? I am disappointed in the sense that this has been a dream opportunity for me," he told the Boston Herald. "I grew up in this town. I'm a Bruins fan and always have been. To have the opportunity to coach the Bruins has been the thrill of a lifetime. Never for one minute did I take it for granted."

Peter Chiarelli, who succeeded Mike O'Connell as general manager at the end of last month, was unable to interview coaching candidates expeditiously because he remains an assistant general manager of the Ottawa Senators until July 15.

"It was a difficult process and I understand [Sullivan's] disappointment," Chiarelli said. "I handled it the best I could, given the constraints of the situation. I am sure Mike will go on to have success in the league."

The Bruins finished last in the Northeast Division the past season under Sullivan, a Marshfield native and Boston University product who played 11 seasons in the National Hockey League.

It was interim general manager Jeff Gorton who broke the news.

"Peter had not met Mike prior to coming to Boston and he felt that it was incumbent upon him to get to know Mike before making a decision on the coaching situation," Groton said.

"Mike went to Ottawa a couple of weeks ago and they had a good discussion about the game and how it needed to be played in order to have success. Peter advised Mike that he would be talking to other candidates. He went through that process and his decision was that at this time we are better served to have a clean slate."

Chiarelli was hired to a four-year contract on May 26.

"My gut feeling, I guess, was this was an inevitability," Sullivan told The Boston Globe. "But, obviously ... you don't know that until it actually happens. I say inevitable, just based on the way things had been playing out."

The 37-year-old Sullivan succeeded O'Connell to become the 26th head coach in Bruins history. O'Connell had taken over late in the 2002-03 season after Robbie Ftorek was fired. O'Connell added Sullivan, who was head coach at Boston's AHL team in Providence, as an assistant coach.

That had been Sullivan's only season at Providence, where he went 41-17-9-4. After Boston's season ended, he returned to Providence for the AHL playoffs.

Sullivan turned pro in 1990 with San Diego of the International Hockey League. O'Connell was his coach there.

Sullivan joined the NHL with San Jose in 1991-92, the start of an 11-year playing career in which he had 54 goals, 82 assists, 136 points and 203 penalty minutes in 709 games. Sullivan also played for Calgary, Boston, Nashville and Phoenix. He retired after the 2001-02 season.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press