INDIANAPOLIS – The Indy Fuel announced Monday afternoon that Bernie John will not be returning as head coach for the 2019-20 ECHL season.
“Bernie and I had a chance to sit down after the season, and after sharing our individual thoughts we decided that it would be best for the organization to go in a different direction heading into 2019-20,” Fuel Chairman and Owner Jim Hallett said in the team release. “I’d like to sincerely thank Bernie for all of his tireless work and dedication to the Fuel over the last five seasons.”
John was part of the Indy Fuel organization since it’s inception in 2014-15, serving as assistant coach under then Head Coach Scott Hillman. In five seasons, the Fuel have made the Kelly Cup Playoffs just once, led by John, the team finished as the fourth seed in the Central Division then was swept by the Toledo Walleye. This season, the team missed the playoffs by two points in the Central Division.
In recent seasons, John was able to bring back the same core of players in the locker room. In 2017-18, he brought back a solid core of players last season including Josh Shalla, Alex Wideman, and Michael Neal. This past season, he brought back Shalla and fan favorites, Zach Miskovic and the Rupert twins, Ryan and Matt.
“You hear some coaches talk about it all of the time. You can have all the talent in the world but if you don’t have the chemistry to make it work, it doesn’t happen,” JOHN said at the season’s media day when talking about the 2018-19 team. “Some of these guys have been here for three years now or going on their third year. These guys already know what the structure is, a lot of the stuff we want to do as coaches. A lot of them are forwards, we’ve only got (Miskovic) that’s on the back on, were young on the back.”
That chemistry helped come the beginning of the 2018-19 season when the Fuel won the majority of their games against Central Division opponents but come crunch time at the end of the season, the Fuel struggled in February and March losing six out of ten games in February and eight out of 15 games in March, eventually being eliminated in early April in a shootout loss to the Fort Wayne Komets.
John accomplished the Fuel’s goal of making the Kelly Cup Playoffs in 2018 but was unable to accomplish that goal in 2019, ultimately leading to him parting ways with the organization. Bernie John will always be a very well known person in Indianapolis hockey as he played for the Indianapolis Ice in the CHL then has been a part of the Fuel organization since the inception.
“Since the inception of this team we have been committed to creating a winning organization, and we owe it to our incredible fan base to continue to push toward our ultimate goal of competing for a Kelly Cup,” said Hallett in the team release. “Finding someone with a successful track record at this level and who is able to recruit elite talent will be crucial.”
The Fuel will have started looking for new coaching candidates this offseason and will certainly look for somebody with a winning track record.