University of Ottawa hockey coach fired; team suspended for season

Photo by Sabrina Nemis/The Fulcrum

Photo by Sabrina Nemis/The Fulcrum

Internal investigation finds that coach failed to report incident to university; some players engaged in unacceptable behaviour

Sabrina Nemis
The Fulcrum

OTTAWA (CUP) – UPDATED: The Ottawa Citizen reports that some of the hockey players have retained a lawyer in order to sue the university.

“You’ve got a team of 24 players. My information is that, at the absolute most, there were three that are alleged to have been involved in misconduct,” Lawyer Lawrence Greenspon told the Ottawa Citizen.

University of Ottawa president Allan Rock announced in a statement at Tabaret Hall on June 25 that the men’s varsity hockey team will be suspended for the entire 2014–15 season. Head coach and program manager Réal Paiement has been relieved of his duties.

These actions come in response to an internal review of the university’s policies, practices, and procedures for sports teams by independent experts Lorne Adams and Manon Vaillancourt. There has also been an investigation into the allegations that some team members engaged in excessive drinking and sexual misconduct while in Thunder Bay for two games on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, 2014.

Rock says Paiement was aware of the incident, but tried to handle it internally; it was only reported to the U of O administration by a third party on Feb. 24. The team’s suspension was announced on March 3.

The internal investigation, conducted by independent investigator Steven Gaon, confirmed that while the allegations of excessive drinking and sexual misconduct were an isolated incident, the behaviour of some players was unacceptable and failed to meet university expectations for varsity athletes.

Rock declined to confirm how many students were involved in the incident, stating that he didn’t want the U of O’s review to interfere with the ongoing investigation by Thunder Bay police.

He said he was aware that for members of the hockey team who were not involved in the alleged incidents “this has been an especially difficult time.”

In March, Pat Burns, a member of the hockey team, wrote an open letter to Rock detailing his achievements and contributions at the university. Burns wrote that he had been cooperative with police in the investigation into the alleged misconduct — unlike some of his teammates — and expressed frustration that his name had been tarnished.

“The shadow cast by the allegations of misconduct has affected all members of the team — some unfairly,” Rock said, but he asked for understanding of the university’s position as they wait for the police to continue their investigation, adding, “We cannot name names, either way, for fear of doing greater injustice or running afoul of the law ourselves.”

The university intends to immediately implement recommendations made by Adams and Vaillancourt concerning the management of varsity teams and competitive clubs. Rock said many changes will be in place by September 2014, including new guidelines for athlete and coach behaviour.

“As for the reputation of the university,” he said. “I hope we will be judged on the manner in which we responded to this issue — the way we dealt with it — which I hope has been transparent, clear, and decisive.”

—with files from Spencer Van Dyk

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University of Ottawa hockey coach fired; team suspended for season