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Harvard Athletic Director Erin McDermott announced in a March 14 email that Harvard Athletics will conduct an independent, external review of the women’s ice hockey program following allegations of abuse leveled against the program and embattled head coach Katey Stone.
Harvard has retained New York law firm Jenner and Block to investigate the allegations against the hockey program. Katya Jestin, co-managing partner of the firm, is leading the inquiry. Jestin is a former assistant U.S. attorney and a specialist in institutional culture investigations.
Over the course of 27 seasons coaching Harvard women’s ice hockey, Stone has garnered more wins than any other female coach in the history of women’s college ice hockey. But this year, Stone has faced allegations of abusive behavior, with the first reports published by the Boston Globe in January.
In an investigation by the Athletic published March 10, Stone is accused of turning a blind eye to hazing, using abusive language against players, and running the team like a “mental-health Hunger Games.”
Through interviews with 30 former players and team associates, the Athletic reported that players were subjected to a fining system based on what they wore or ate — including a “gay tax” or an “Asian tax” — and freshmen were told to complete a “Naked Skate” that left them with “ice burns and bleeding nipples.” Players were also hazed during an annual “Initiation Week,” the Athletic reported, which alumni attended in some years.
The Athletic did not report that Stone was directly involved in the fining system, the “Initiation Week,” or the “Naked Skate,” but Stone allegedly downplayed injuries, made insensitive remarks, and contributed to a negative team culture over her tenure.
In the Athletic’s report, generations of Stone’s players characterized the program as pushing “the boundaries of acceptable treatment of athletes.”
Stone did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Harvard spokesperson Rachael Dane declined to comment on the investigation or the allegations against Stone.
In an interview with The Crimson last month, McDermott declined to comment on the allegations against Stone.
But after the Athletic investigation’s release, on March 14, McDermott emailed all Harvard student-athletes “regarding the concerning reports that we have received through media outlets and others about our women's ice hockey program.”
“The most important job I have as Director of Athletics is protecting student-athlete health and safety,” McDermott wrote. “It is also paramount to our culture and community for all to be treated with dignity, and respected as individuals. The conduct alleged does not represent who we are as a Harvard Athletics community. There is no place for behavior that creates peer pressure, humiliation, or physical and emotional harm.”
“This is a good time for reflection, and I encourage all of us — student-athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, administrators, alumni/ae — to commit to our values and live consistently by them through our actions and words,” McDermott added.
On Jan. 27, the Globe published an investigation detailing allegations against Stone from 16 former players, who described a pattern of disregard for physical and mental well-being of athletes, body-shaming, hazing, and insensitive remarks.
The Globe report prominently described an incident where Stone said the team had “too many chiefs and not enough Indians” after a loss to Princeton in the Eastern College Athletic Conference playoffs last February.
The remark led to a review of the program, announced in an April 8, 2022, email by McDermott. But in July, McDermott wrote that Stone would continue to coach the team.
According to the Athletic, ahead of the Globe investigation’s publication, McDermott spoke at the HH Dinner — an alumni weekend event attended by about 50 people this year, including many of Stone’s former and current players as well as employees of Harvard’s athletic department.
There, McDermott lauded Stone’s work and legacy in a speech, and Anne Holland “Holly” Johnson ’96, former captain and member of Stone’s first team, told attendees the program’s reputation is sacred, according to the Athletic.
The Athletic reported to some players and alumni, the event felt like “an effort to galvanize support for Stone and rally people to push back against any criticism to come.”
Stone spoke separately to a group of former players in the team’s locker room during the gathering, the Athletic reported.
“They’re trying to light this program on fire,” Stone said, according to the Athletic. “And we’re not going to let that happen.”
—Staff writer Paton D. Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @paton_dr.
—Staff writer Sophia C. Scott can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ScottSophia_.
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