The Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League season hasn’t even started and there has already been a coaching change.
The Pelham Panthers have parted ways with head coach Chris Johnstone and assistant coach Carson Johnstone one month into a scheduled three-month training camp. The GOJHL season is slated to begin Dec. 2, pending government approval.
Panthers director of hockey operations/owner/general manager Tim Toffolo said he made the change Tuesday, Sept. 29.
Toffolo indicated the change was made because he felt Carson Johnstone’s time commitment to the Fort Erie International Academy private school would interfere with his role on the Panthers.
“The time commitment with FEIA is insurmountable,” Toffolo. “If FEIA is going to play hockey games, then you’re going to be in FEIA because you’re employed through FEIA and can’t be here in Pelham.
“In fairness to the organization and the kids, we have to move on and have people who are going to give them 125 percent just like they’re going to give 125 per cent on rink. We can’t have anything but. We can’t have anybody who is going to be here for five games and miss 20. We can’t do it.
“Those differences caused us to make the decision that we did.”
When contacted by BPSN, both Chris Johnstone and Carson Johnstone declined comment.
Toffolo said he will act as head coach for the time being. Assistants Christian Wiley and Liam Conway remain with the team.
“This group of guys are excited and when the change happened there wasn’t a miss in a beat,” Toffolo said.
Toffolo said he will continue to explore other options for a head coach, but for now will bring in guest instructors to help run practice.
“We’re in the middle of COVID. For me to go out and hire a whole new staff at this time not knowing what the future is, doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “I feel very confident with what we have coming and what we have systems-wise and what will happen with that.”
Chris and Carson Johnstone joined the Panthers in October of 2019 after head coach Mark Barrick and the Panthers mutually parted ways.
The Panthers finished in sixth place with 17-31-2 record and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the St. Catharines Falcons.
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