But several sources told The Star that Fine, the Soo’s third-round draft choice in 2007, had a history of off-ice issues which were distractions for the Ontario Hockey League club.
While players are sometimes disciplined or dismissed in the past for off-ice offences such as alcohol or drug use, Fine insisted those weren’t factors in his abrupt departure.
“It might have been a few things with my attitude,” Fine said. “It was nothing to do with alcohol or drugs or anything like that. You can talk to any of the guys who hung out with me the most, and they’ll tell you that’s not true at all.
“It was maybe more about team attitude, not being as hockey-focused as I could have been or not being committed.”
Fine said he considers his time
as a Greyhound to be over, adding that his agent, Mark Guy of Newport Sports Management, is working to secure a trade to another OHL team.
This past spring, Fine was selected to play for Canada in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Under-18 Championships, but left the team and returned home just prior to the start of the tourney.
“It’s a personal matter,” was all Fine would say at the time.
He did add, however, that whatever happened “isn’t going to effect my hockey career.”
Fine admitted there was an argument this past Saturday night between himself and Hounds defenceman Jake Muzzin, his captain and housemate, but stopped short of saying if it helped lead to his leaving Sunday. He would not
elaborate on what they argued about.
“It was just an argument, nothing big,” Fine said. “It was something between me and him.”
Muzzin had little to add.
“I don’t really have any details,” the 20-year-old blue-liner said.
Muzzin, who recently returned from training camp with the NHL’s Nashville Predators, called Fine “a good guy, who was always good to me,” and his departure “unfortunate.”
But Muzzin admitted there were issues with his former teammate’s attitude.
“You know, you want a team to be tight, and when you have a couple of guys who are not involved, it’s hard to have a tight group,” Muzzin said. “One player doesn’t make you win or lose.”
He did add, however, that Fine
participated in most of the Hounds’ outside activities, meant to bring players closer together.
“A team is full of different people, and maybe some don’t always agree with everything you do,” Muzzin said. “But mostly he was there, yeah.”
During the Hounds’ first two regular-season games, home-ice wins over Ottawa and Erie, Fine lined up at left wing alongside rookie centre Daniel Catenacci and veteran right-winger James Livingston.
With Fine gone, Hounds head coach Denny Lambert said he’ll continue to test line combinations as his team prepares for this week’s road swing through Peterborough, Kingston and Ottawa.
“It’s a difficult replacement to make,” Lambert said. “You’re talking about a guy who is one of the
best two-way players in the league, in my opinion, a guy on our top penalty kill, five-on-five, everything.”
Last season, Fine scored 16 goals and added 21 assists, along with 59 penalty minutes, in 58 games.
Soo coaches were anticipating him having a breakout year in 2009-10.
“We’ll miss Michael, but we have to go forward,” Lambert said. “If we’re going to get better as a team, we have to go forward.”
Lambert, like his general manager, was mum on the subject of Fine’s alleged indiscretions.
“It’s something we’re dealing with ourselves, as a group,” the coach said. “It’s not something I’m going to comment on.”
Asked if he might elaborate later, perhaps when Fine is traded or his situation is otherwise resolved, Lambert was noncommittal. ” Maybe at that time, but right now, there’s nothing to talk about,” he said. “Right now, all I’m worried about is getting my team ready for this weekend, to keep them moving in the right direction.
“We have a little adversity and we’re going to deal with it.”
Fine, meanwhile, hopes he will soon be traded and can resume his major junior career.
“I think it was kind of mutually decided that a fresh start and a new team would be good for me,” he said. “Obviously, I’m upset to leave my buddies and to be sitting at home. But hopefully a team picks me up soon and I can start a new chapter there.”