Mike Kitchen won’t be returning to his role as an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers, the team announced Tuesday.
TSN’s Frank Seravalli, citing multiple sources, reports Kitchen’s dismissal is the result of him allegedly kicking a Panthers player while both were on the bench during a game this past season.
“The alleged incident occurred in the third period of Florida’s win in Minnesota on Jan. 20. A Panthers player threw a water bottle on the bench in frustration, dousing Kitchen, who allegedly kicked the player in response,” Seravalli wrote, citing sources.
“‘This certainly wasn’t a friendly tap of encouragement,’ the source said. ‘There’s no place for anything like that in the game.’”
Seravalli added that Kitchen “did not immediately respond to a request for comment,” while the Panthers only said in the news release that "Mike Kitchen will not return as assistant coach," and declining to offer further comment.
Following the alleged incident, Kitchen continued coaching without consequence until the NHL paused the season on March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kitchen then chose to opt out of the NHL’s return-to-play tournament and did not join the Panthers in the Toronto bubble as the team was dropped by the New York Islanders in Round 1.
Kitchen’s said in a statement sent before the league’s restart that his choice to skip the restart was a “difficult decision to say the least, but the right decision for me and my family.” The Panthers publicly supported Kitchen’s decision.
An NHL official reportedly confirmed to Seravalli that the league had been informed of an internal investigation related to the incident being conducted by the Panthers. Seravalli also cites sources that say now-former GM Dale Tallon and current head coach Joel Quenneville were notified of the alleged incident immediately following the game back in January.
The source added that Tallon was not present at the game which the kicking allegedly occurred, but no disciplinary action was taken when Tallon rejoined the team or any time after.
This marks the second time within the past 10 months that a player has accused a coach of kicking them. Former Carolina Hurricanes blueliner Michal Jordan claimed in November that former bench boss Bill Peters kicked him forcefully in the back during a game.
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