Jim Montgomery was fired as coach of the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. He was replaced by assistant Rick Bowness.
"I was made aware of a situation over the weekend involving an employee of the Dallas Stars organization," Stars general manager Jim Nill said. "Upon collecting all the information and executing an internal investigation, including speaking with ownership, management and general counsel, it was determined that there was a material act of unprofessionalism contrary to the values and standards held by the Dallas Stars organization.
"It is very clear this cannot be tolerated, and therefore we have relieved Jim Montgomery of his duties immediately. It is an honor and a privilege to work in the NHL, and there is a standard that we are all held accountable to as an employee of the Dallas Stars organization. This decision was not, I repeat, was not based on on-ice performance and there is no connection to any past or present players."
Nill also said Montgomery's firing had nothing to do with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Monday announcing plans and programs aimed at sensitizing team personnel and players to abusive behavior of any kind.
"First of all, we approve the NHL in creating the four-point initiative, the plan," Nill said. "I was in contact with the NHL, but this decision was made before that initiative came out. There is no connection between the two."
Bowness coached the Stars in a 2-0 win against the New Jersey Devils at American Airlines Center on Tuesday. Dallas (18-11-3) is 17-4-2 since starting the season 1-7-1.
"This is our staff for the rest of the season," Nill said. "Rick is our interim head coach and my plan is he is going to take us where we need to go."
Bowness was named a Stars assistant coach June 22, 2018, after five seasons as associate coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Montgomery was hired as Dallas coach on May 4, 2018.
"It's a huge shock for you and for all of us to come in here this morning and find this news," Bowness said before the game. "Usually when a coach takes over a team, they are struggling or they are in the process of selling everyone for next year to finish as bottom of the league as they can, which I have been a part of too many times, but I'm in a fortunate position that [Montgomery] is an excellent coach and has the team playing very, very well.
"We're fortunate in that way, but there is no question that this is a shock to all of us."
Bowness was 123-289-3 with 48 ties as an NHL coach for the Winnipeg Jets (1988-89), Boston Bruins (1991-92), Ottawa Senators (1992-96), New York Islanders (1996-98) and Phoenix Coyotes (2003-04).
"He brings a lot of energy to this group and he brought a lot of energy on the bench," Stars forward Joe Pavelski said after the win Tuesday. "It was a game where we established our game early on and we were able to roll four lines. It was a night where we felt like we owned throughout the game."
Derek Laxdal, coach of Texas in the American Hockey League since July 3, 2014, was named an assistant to Bowness.
Montgomery is the fourth NHL coach to be replaced this season. Mike Babcock (Toronto Maple Leafs) and John Hynes (New Jersey Devils) were fired, and Bill Peters resigned as coach of the Calgary Flames on Nov. 29, three days after the NHL and Flames announced they were investigating a claim he used a racial slur in addressing a player earlier in his coaching career.
Montgomery was 60-43-10 in 113 games as Stars coach. Dallas reached the Western Conference Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, a seven-game loss to the eventual champion St. Louis Blues.
"They are very surprised, I talked to the team today," Nill said. "We have a very good team, we have great leadership and they're going to get over this."
Stars defenseman John Klingberg said, "I mean, everyone is surprised, obviously. No one knew about this and it came as a shock. But like I said, we're professionals. We have a game here tonight and we're going to have to focus on that and move on."
Montgomery replaced Ken Hitchcock as Stars coach after five seasons at the University of Denver, where he won the NCAA Division I men's championship in 2017. He won a national title as a player with the University of Maine in 1993 and played 122 NHL games with the Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks and Stars.