Nailers’ Silence Is Deafening

Shawn Rine Staff Writer

WHEELING — The Wheeling Nailers announced Tuesday in a sparsely worded two-sentence release that Jeff Christian would not be returning as coach for the 2018-19 season. Since, the Regional Economic Development Partnership that owns the team has been silent, declining to speak further on the matter.

The internet, however, has been abuzz. In a revealing article published by DKPittsburghSports.com, it was alleged that Christian, who spent two full seasons and a playoff run in another with the team, had ”inappropriate and unwanted communication” with multiple women via social media. The article further asserted the Wheeling organization became aware of the situation last year and Christian deleted his Twitter account.

Wow. That’s a lot to digest, but let’s give it a try.

First of all, if true — and I have had someone reach out to me that I trust saying the allegations against Christian are — then it’s a definite problem. There’s no room in hockey or anywhere else for that matter, for that kind of behavior. If you want to reach out to someone, that’s fine. But do it in a respectful way and if the overture is rebuked, cut the losses and move on.

Secondly, if the Nailers organization knew of this last offseason and didn’t cut ties immediately, that’s an issue. To put it bluntly, one could make an argument that a failure to act on RED’s behalf could be considered criminal if one or more of the alleged victims wanted to pursue the matter.

There are plenty of answers I think we all need to have. Among the questions I would have asked are:

∫ Did the organization in fact know of the allegations last season, and if so why wasn’t further action taken? The mere deleting of a Twitter account is like putting a band aid on a bullet wound.

∫ Would the decision to not renew Christian’s contract have still been made if the Nailers had not missed the Kelly Cup playoffs each of his two full seasons?

∫ What is the hiring process, and who has the final say? Each of the last two hires — Christian and the late David Gove — appear to have had some serious problems.

∫ Do you worry this may alienate your female fan base?

∫ How can the Nailers prove they will do better going forward?

∫ Would you consider a social media ban for everyone in the organization, save for the team accounts that have become necessary in today’s world?

We may never know the answers to these questions because both Christian and RED aren’t talking. That’s a bad look for all involved.

I like and respect Don Rigby and Brian Komorowski, the Nailers’ governor and alternate governor, respectively, as both professionals and human beings.

Perhaps the parent Pittsburgh Penguins have put a gag order on the situation.

But that, too, has been left up to what would amount to the most amateur of guesswork.

The unfortunate reality is, not facing the music and answering the tough questions in a time that demands it, particularly with the current climate brought to the forefront by the MeToo Movement, is a public relations nightmare.

Everyone deserves answers, as well as reassurance there won’t be a repeat down the road.

Shawn Rine can be reached via email at: srine@theintelligencer.net

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