New Allegations of Hazing, Mistreatment of Athletes within Harvard Women’s Ice Hockey Program

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The Athletic | 3/10/23 | Hailey Salvian and Katie Strang

The Harvard women’s ice hockey program, under scrutiny following a January report from the Boston Globe that alleged abusive behavior by coach Katey Stone and hazing within the program, held annual “Naked Skates” that were considered hazing by some players. And during a preseason event known as “Freshmen Fun Night,” some newcomers felt pressured to consume alcohol and simulate sex acts, according to new reporting by The Athletic.

Stone, 56, who has more wins than any other female coach in collegiate women’s hockey history, has coached at Harvard for 27 seasons. During most of those years, the hockey team held “Initiation Week,” which culminated with the “Freshmen Fun Night.” At that event, upperclassmen urged freshmen to, among other acts over the years, put condoms on bananas, fake orgasms, and act out skits that referenced their sexual orientation. In some years, underaged players consumed alcohol until they passed out or vomited.

“For me, it was hazing,” said Tiana Harris, a member of the 2011-12 team.

The “Naked Skate” was painted as a team-building exercise and came later in the season, usually after the longest road trip. After arriving back on campus, upperclassmen would tell players to head to the locker room at The Bright-Landry Hockey Center. Upperclassmen would strip down and instruct other players to do the same before putting on skates and gloves to take the ice.

In some years, freshmen were ordered to take part. In other years, it was voluntary. Players from 2005 to 2023 said they witnessed or participated in the event. In some of those years, freshmen were told to do a superman slide on the ice, leaving some with ice burns and bleeding nipples.

Many players who spoke to The Athletic thought the “Naked Skate” was fun or expressed indifference to it. But it made others uncomfortable. The most recent “Naked Skate” occurred the day following the publication of the Globe story. After one player became upset about the event, Stone and her staff later met with the team and told them it was an unpermitted activity.

Players on teams dating as far back as 2002 also recalled a fining system in which team members had to pay a monetary penalty for perceived offenses. Some women were fined for their clothes or what they ate, for having a boyfriend or harboring a crush. Some players say they had to pay a “gay tax” or an “Asian tax.”

The Athletic did not find direct evidence that Stone played any role in “Initiation Week,” the fining system or was present for “Naked Skate.” But, as one player from the last 10 years said, Stone would frequently remind the players: “There’s not a single thing on this team that goes on that I don’t know about.” (That player and some others were granted anonymity because they fear reprisal from Harvard officials or the team’s alumni.)

Over the last month, The Athletic spoke to more than 30 individuals who played for Harvard or were associated with the program from this season and going back more than 20 years. The Athletic also reviewed audio recordings, videos and email correspondence from players, school officials and others.

Stone declined to comment for this story.

Backstory

The Boston Globe reported earlier this year on allegations of abusive behavior by Stone over her tenure.

Among the allegations, Stone berated the team for a subpar practice on March 5, 2022, and said it contained “too many chiefs and not enough Indians.” Maryna Macdonald, a member of British Columbia’s Ditidaht First Nation, said Stone looked at her as she spoke. Stone admitted almost immediately that she shouldn’t have said it, but Macdonald was unsettled by the comment, and after Stone left the room, Macdonald’s teammates consoled her.

Stone self-reported that remark, made in front of two players who are of Indigenous descent, shortly after it occurred. It prompted a review of the program, but in an email to one player, athletic director Erin McDermott wrote: “Please know that Coach Stone is not under investigation.” In an April 8 email to the entire team, she called the review a “deeper dive” into players’ experiences that would involve “conversations” with a faculty member and assistant dean. On July 19, McDermott let players know via email that “Coach Stone is our head coach and will remain our head coach.”

Macdonald quit the team the next day.

Macdonald is among a group of players who spoke to The Athletic and described a sense of constantly being scrutinized while in the hockey program.

She felt isolated and depressed as a freshman in 2018-19 and was frequently vomiting from the anxiety she felt each day.

After sustaining a head injury in a game on Dec. 8, 2018, Macdonald was diagnosed with a concussion. During winter break later in the season, Macdonald missed the first session of a two-a-day practice (which she could not participate in due to her concussion) because she was late flying back from British Columbia. She says Stone later scolded her in front of the coaching staff and two captains. Stone brought up that misstep continuously over the remainder of the school year and beyond, Macdonald said.

A player from the 2016-17 season told The Athletic, “the whole team was centered around shame.”

Said one player from the mid-2000s: “It makes me really angry and sad that it’s continuing to happen to these girls because I know the harm and the pain it’s caused me.”


Hazing, Naked Skates and a ‘Mental-Health Hunger Games’: the Dark Side of Harvard Women’s Ice Hockey

The Athletic | March 10, 2023 | Hailey Salvian and Katie Strong

On Jan. 21, hours after the Harvard women’s ice hockey team fell 3-1 to Union College, Crimson coach Katey Stone walked into the Boynton Lounge, a hospitality suite within The Bright-Landry Hockey Center. It was the night of the HH Dinner, the marquee event of alumni weekend, and the room was filled with Stone’s former and current players, athletic department officials and others.

Stone, 56, has coached Harvard for 27 seasons and has more wins than any other female coach in collegiate women’s hockey history. Photos of the great players from her teams adorn a wall outside the lounge. Some of those players clustered with former teammates around the space, reconnecting, catching up about careers and families. Stone moved among them, buoyant. The drinks and stories flowed.

But amidst the socializing and revelry was an undercurrent of unease. Stone and many others at the dinner knew that the Boston Globe was about to publish an exposé about the program. Days earlier, current players and some alumni received an email from Stone notifying them of a coming article that would accuse her of fostering “a culture that has emotionally damaged many of the girls I have recruited.”

As they socialized, some attendees speculated about what the article might reveal and who spoke to the newspaper. Others denounced the story as a hit piece. When athletic director Erin McDermott praised Stone and her legacy in a speech, some saw it as a public vote of confidence. Holly Johnson, a member of Stone’s first team (1994-95), forcefully reminded the players and alumni that their association with the program gave them credibility. She added that the reputation of the program is sacred.

To some of the approximately 50 attendees, the event felt like an effort to galvanize support for Stone and rally people to push back against any criticism to come.

Throughout the evening, Stone projected insouciance. She danced. She took a shot of alcohol off a goalie stick with others. She offered up her crystal-studded loafers to be auctioned off. And she enthusiastically thanked those in attendance for their support.

But later, Stone met with a smaller group of former players in the team’s locker room. It is considered hallowed ground by many alumni, and printed on the door is one of Stone’s edicts, a reminder that what is said and seen in the room doesn’t leave the room. There, Stone shed the calm she displayed at the larger gathering.

On Jan. 27, the Globe published the article, in which 16 players (three of them named), accused Stone of misconduct, including insensitivity to mental health issues, pressuring players to return from injuries, body shaming and more. The paper also reported there was hazing within the program.

The article’s most detailed anecdote centered on a racially insensitive comment made by Stone at a meeting on March 5, 2022. Stone said the team had “too many chiefs and not enough Indians.”

Stone self-reported that remark, made in front of two players of Indigenous descent, shortly after it occurred. It prompted a review of the program, but in an email to one player, McDermott wrote: “Please know that Coach Stone is not under investigation.” In an April 8 email to the entire team, she called the review a “deeper dive” into players’ experiences that would involve “conversations” with a faculty member and assistant dean. On July 19, McDermott let players know via email that “Coach Stone is our head coach and will remain our head coach.”

Over the last month, The Athletic spoke to more than 30 individuals who played for Harvard or were associated with the program from this season and going back more than 20 years. The Athletic also reviewed audio recordings, videos and email correspondence from players, school officials and others. What emerged from that reporting was a portrait of a program that, for most of Stone’s tenure, pushed and crossed the boundaries of acceptable treatment of athletes, players say, and in many years there were activities that some players considered hazing. Among the specific allegations:

• During the team’s annual “Initiation Week,” which concluded with “Freshmen Fun Night”, upperclassmen urged freshmen to, among other acts over the years, put condoms on bananas, fake orgasms and act out skits that referenced their sexual orientation. Some years, underaged players felt pressured to consume alcohol, some until they passed out or vomited. In some years, alumni came back to campus and participated in “Freshman Fun Night.”

• Players on teams dating as far back as 2002 recalled a fining system in which team members had to pay a monetary penalty for perceived offenses. Some women were fined for the clothes they wore or what they ate, for having a boyfriend or harboring a crush. Some players say they had to pay a ”gay tax” or an “Asian tax.”

The Athletic did not find direct evidence that Stone played any role in Initiation Week, the fining system or was present for Naked Skate. But, as one player from the last 10 years said, Stone would frequently remind the players: “There’s not a single thing on this team that goes on that I don’t know about.” (That player and some others were granted anonymity because they fear reprisal from Harvard officials or the team’s alumni.)

Stone was allegedly an active participant in other problematic behavior. Seven players described instances from three seasons when Stone would respond to a rule infraction by leading a chant against the offending player: “I hate (player’s name)! I hate (player’s name)!” Eleven players alleged that Stone showed indifference to injuries they or others suffered. One player who suffered a head injury during a practice early in her freshman year said Stone glanced at her while she was lying on the ice and crying and barked at a trainer: “Get this kid out of here!”

One year, Stone had players fill out a survey, which included a comment section where players had to write about their teammates’ abilities. Stone then held a meeting with each player and showed those comments to them.

“It was like being a part of a cult,” Tiana Harris, who played the 2011-12 season for Harvard, wrote in an email.

The remark by Stone on March 5, 2022, was not the first time she or a member of her coaching staff made a racially insensitive comment in front of the team. During the 2017-18 season, Stone made an insensitive comment to a player from Japan during a team meeting. The next season, an associate coach did the same, according to the Japanese player and another person present.

Abra Kinkopf, who played on the 2002-03 team, and many other players who spoke to The Athletic expressed frustration with Harvard’s seeming inaction in the face of so many players leaving the program. “How many would you like? How many do you need? How many is enough for you?” asked Kinkopf.

On Wednesday, The Athletic spoke with Harvard spokesperson Rachael Dane and, in a nearly hour-long conversation, went over the allegations in this story and requested interviews with Stone, McDermott, associate coach Lee-J Mirasolo and Mike Smith, the school’s faculty athletics representative. A reporter also spoke with Stone briefly over the phone and offered her the opportunity to respond to the allegations. Stone said she did not have time to go over them. Dane later said that Stone didn’t wish to speak with The Athletic at this time. McDermott, Mirasolo and Smith also declined to comment, according to Dane. The Athletic had multiple phone conversations and email exchanges with Dane over a two-day period, answering her questions about this story. She provided a statement addressing one allegation in the story – included below – but otherwise declined to comment.

“A mental-health Hunger Games”

Stone grew up in Watertown, Conn., the youngest of four kids, nicknamed “The Big Banana” by her siblings because of her bright blonde hair. She played on her older brother’s peewee team and wasn’t shy about mixing it up with the boys. Her mother was a receptionist at the prestigious Taft boarding school; her dad was the athletic director. Stone recalled sitting in dugouts with her father, keeping stats during baseball games and skating on Taft’s rink on Christmas mornings.

She played field hockey, ice hockey and lacrosse in high school – “She was just a fireball,’’ her older sister told Harvard Magazine in 2014 – before playing lacrosse and ice hockey at the University of New Hampshire.

Stone was hired to helm Harvard’s hockey team in 1994 at age 28. In 1999, the Crimson won a national championship, thrusting the program on the level of powerhouses like UNH, Providence and Northeastern.

She smartly built the program, in part, by leveraging Harvard’s academics and the network of well-connected alumni of the program. She preached the mantra 4 for 40 – where an individual played for the next four years would dictate the following 40 years of that person’s life. It helped her establish pipelines to hockey hotbeds such as Minnesota, elite prep schools such as Noble and Greenough, and feeder programs such as Assabet Valley.

Some of the players interviewed by The Athletic said they had a positive experience playing for Stone. But she also favored a climate in which players were constantly on edge. One way she accomplished that, players say, was to create two factions, one comprised of Stone’s favorites and the other the players she disliked or disregarded. The divide was not always by skill. Often it was players who were compliant versus those who dared to have “a streak of independence,” as one player put it. The former were often deputized by Stone to monitor the latter, ferrying information to Stone about their teammates’ eating habits, personal lives, extracurricular activities and more. Some team leaders were asked for input on playing time for their peers, discipline for teammates, even dispatched to enforce dress code violations.

One person likened the environment to the Stanford prison experiment, a controversial study in which college students became prisoners or guards in a simulated prison and adopted the behaviors of their respective roles.

Some players who felt out of favor tried to claw their way into Stone’s good graces, which sometimes meant volunteering her information such as who was dating who, which players were drinking heavily on weekends and more.

“The whole team was centered around shame,” said a player from the 2016-17 season.

Many players described a sense of constantly being scrutinized. One player was informed her pants were too short. Another that an exposed metal zipper was unacceptable. Some years, players were weighed regularly and what they ate was monitored. The player from the 2016-17 season said she and others had to send a trainer photos of their meals. The trainer chided her for having a muffin on her plate. (“Is that a breakfast cupcake I see?”). Another player who played a few years earlier was told she needed to gain weight and had to down protein shakes while team captains supervised. She gained 20 pounds in six months and felt slow and became more self-conscious about her appearance. “I was in a completely foreign body,” said the player, one of three who told The Athletic they developed an eating disorder while at Harvard.

Two players on the 2016-17 team said that at the end of that season, Stone distributed something like a Likert scale survey for players to fill out that included questions about their teammates – example: Does (player name) work hard? – which they were to score from one to five. There was also a mandatory comment section and players were instructed to list their teammates’ strengths and weaknesses. Once the surveys were completed, Stone and the other coaches called each player into a meeting and showed them what their teammates wrote about them. “It was like the burn book from ‘Mean Girls,’” said one player. She said some teammates were shattered after reading harsh comments from their peers. And, the coaches didn’t name who said what, creating more mistrust among teammates.

One parent of a player from a recent season, in describing how she perceived Stone ran the program, said it was “a mental-health Hunger Games.”

In her 27 seasons coaching Harvard, Stone has 523 career wins. She has won 12 Beanpot trophies, and coached 24 All-American players, 15 Olympians and six winners of the Patty Kazmeier award (given annually to the top Division I player in the nation). She was the first woman to coach the U.S. Olympic women’s team, at the 2014 Games in Sochi. However, Harvard has qualified for only one of the last seven NCAA Tournaments.

“The longer the season goes, the more the team just falls apart, because she pits us against each other and creates this dynamic where we’re not rooting for each other to be at our best, we’re waiting for someone to fall so we can be in their shoes,” said Maryna Macdonald (2018-22).

After the five-win 2016-17 season, the worst in Stone’s tenure, two parents of players met with Lars Madsen, the chief of staff to then-Harvard president Drew Faust. One of the parents in that meeting said they told Madsen about Stone’s insensitivity to mental health issues, how she told players who were struggling that they were a burden to their teammates and that players don’t speak up due to fear of retaliation. Those parents also collected comments from other parents via email and shared some of those comments with Madsen. In those parent emails, the program was termed a “secret society.” Stone was called “a menace.” And players were said to be “scared s- – -less” to report what they were enduring. (Madsen, now at Stanford, did not respond to multiple emails and a text message requesting an interview.)

The parent who spoke to The Athletic said they never heard from Madsen after that meeting. “All I could think was: ‘Thank God my kid is finished here,’” said the parent.

“It reinforces the culture of silence”

The instructions would come via email or text sent to the freshmen class early in the school year. Those incoming players, most still teenagers, would be given costume assignments and a list of tasks to complete, with photo documentation required.

This, they were told, was the start of Initiation Week.

Most tasks were innocuous. Some were even a bit fun. Form a pyramid in the quad. Snap a photo in front of the “Pucks 9” license plate that adorned Stone’s car. But there were other, more unseemly tasks. Lick the toe of the John Harvard statue on campus. Jump inside a dirty laundry hamper after an intense practice session.

Players also were ordered to wear or carry things around campus that made them look ridiculous but were mostly viewed as harmless fun. One player had to wear a cowboy hat and pigtails, another a leather jacket and biking gloves, another had to carry a stethoscope and medical briefcase. If a player was caught without the required costume or adornment, upperclassmen might demand they drop and do pushups on the spot.

The Athletic spoke to players spanning two decades of teams. Most did not take issue with what they were asked to do or wear or carry in the first part of Initiation Week. But some felt that what was asked of them in the early part of the week crossed the line. Harris remembers a group of upperclassmen coming to her dorm in her freshman year (2011-12) and filming her while she did pushups and goading her with insults about her long-distance boyfriend. “We know your boyfriend likes it fast, but we want them slow,” Harris said they yelled.

Initiation Week culminated with Freshmen Fun Night. The newcomers met at a dorm room at a prearranged time in assigned costumes, some of which were chosen to poke fun at a freshman’s insecurities. One woman struggling emotionally and who cried often had to dress up as Oscar the Grouch, with actual garbage attached to her. Another with a very muscular, athletic build had to go as Malibu Barbie.

At the dorm room, the freshmen were met by upperclassmen, and in some years alumni of the program – who came back to help with the initiation – all of them clad in black dresses and sunglasses. Freshmen were herded into a bathroom where the lights were turned off, the sink drains covered in tape and they were told to drink until the shots of alcohol or warmed-up beers were gone. Some years, freshmen were allowed to abstain. Other years, players felt that wasn’t an option. One former player said she became so inebriated she never left the bathroom; she just laid down there.

Freshmen would eventually exit the bathroom and stand in the middle of the dorm room and be given commands. In some years, they had to recite Harvard hockey facts, like how many goals Nicole Corriero scored in her career. Sometimes, the freshmen were required to perform a song. Players also described skits simulating sex acts with each other or inanimate objects. Harris said she and others were required to do wall sits while alumni screamed at them.

When all the freshmen had gone through the gauntlet, the jeers and vitriol turned to smiles and hugs. The players were told they were now part of the team and were invited to go out partying with the upperclassmen. Some freshmen laughed off the experience, eager to be welcomed into the ranks, and found the night to be fun. But others were appalled.

“For me, it was hazing,” Harris said. She added: “You had all these alum who were super intimidating.”

One of the players from 2016-17 said she and others in her class tried to shield a classmate who was allergic to alcohol from having to partake during Freshmen Fun Night, but the classmate felt she couldn’t abstain. When the initiation ended and they were invited out for a night of more drinking, the player said she and her classmate instead headed to Harvard Yard. The two sat on the steps and cried. The player who was allergic to alcohol vomited.

For some, the torment from upperclassmen didn’t end with Initiation Week. Harris said older teammates would see her at parties and call her “titties,” a reference, she felt, meant to shame her for dressing too provocatively. When she passed on team parties to hang out with friends from her dorm, she was given a teddy bear named “Shady Bear” because, team leaders explained, she was acting “shady.”

Upperclassmen and team leaders also oversaw the fining system in which players were docked nominal amounts for perceived transgressions. Much like the initiation rituals, what a player was fined for depended on the arbiter. The offenses could be light-hearted, like for wearing the same outfit as a teammate. But players also recalled being fined for late-night hookups or associating with people not deemed “friends of the program.” Players’ bodies, eating habits and sexual orientation could all be fineable offenses. One team member was fined for having a crush on a teammate.

Players not in Stone’s good graces often felt as if they were targeted with fines more frequently. “I was an easy target. Coach didn’t like me, so they didn’t have to like me either,” said a player from the 2015-16 season.

“It reinforces the culture of silence,” Kinkopf said. “It seems silly. It seems harmless. It’s not.”

Naked Skate, another tradition painted as a team-building exercise, occurred later in the season, typically after the longest road trip of the season.

As the team bus arrived back at campus, players were told by the upperclassmen to go to the locker room at The Bright-Landry Hockey Center. Once inside, the upperclassmen stripped down and instructed others to do the same until they were naked. They would then put on skates and gloves and take the ice. Some years, freshmen were ordered to take part. In other years, it was voluntary. Four players from 11 different seasons say they witnessed a Naked Skate when freshmen were told to superman slide on the ice.

Many players who spoke to The Athletic thought Naked Skate was fun or expressed indifference to it. But it made others uncomfortable. A player from the 2013-14 team said she worried about other people who had access to the rink, including the men’s hockey team, and whether Naked Skate was being recorded by the arena’s cameras. She said she took part for just a few minutes and then left, finding the whole experience “f—ed up.”

Even amidst the fallout from the Globe article, the 2023 Naked Skate was held as usual. Confronted with that fact, Harvard emailed the following statement: Following the disclosure that a member of the Harvard women’s hockey team was upset after a non-sanctioned team event on the evening of Saturday, January 28, the women’s hockey coaches alerted Harvard Athletics to the comments and discussed next steps. Following that notification, the coaches were instructed to speak with the captains and members of the team to determine the events of Saturday, 28th. During those coach to student conversations, players involved acknowledged that they arranged a voluntary skating event at the hockey arena without the consent of Harvard Athletics. They further acknowledged that the event was not mandatory and some students participated, while others chose not to. On February 1, the coaches held a full team meeting to reaffirm that this was a non-sanctioned event that did not reflect the expectations of the Harvard women’s hockey team and clearly stated that all team activities that make any member of the team feel pressured or uncomfortable are not permitted.

In response to that statement, The Athletic emailed a Harvard spokesperson some questions, including: Did Harvard consider what occurred to be “hazing”? How did players gain access to the arena after hours? Was this the first time Stone has been made aware that team members were holding a Naked Skate? The spokesperson did not respond to that email.

All Harvard athletes must sign an anti-hazing pledge at the beginning of each season. One player from the mid-2000s felt a sense of relief when that form was distributed, only to find herself subjected to what she considered hazing a short time later during Initiation Week.

“It’s something that you think you’re protected against and it turns out there is no protection,” said a player from the early-2000s.

“They wouldn’t even call it an investigation”

When on March 5, 2022, Stone said to the team that it contained “too many chiefs and not enough Indians,” Maryna Macdonald, a member of British Columbia’s Ditidaht First Nation, said Stone looked at her as she spoke. Stone admitted almost immediately that she shouldn’t have said it, but Macdonald was so obviously unsettled by the comment that, after Stone left the room, Macdonald’s teammates consoled her.

Macdonald had considered leaving the program before. When she arrived as a freshman in 2018-19, some of Stone’s policies and the team dynamic made her feel unwelcome. Macdonald was thousands of miles away from her home, and she felt isolated and grew depressed. She was frequently vomiting from the anxiety she felt each day.

After Macdonald sustained a head injury in a game on Dec. 8, 2018, Stone came to her hospital room to deliver a keepsake puck – Macdonald had scored her first goal before the hit. But when Macdonald described the on-ice collision to a nurse, Macdonald said Stone scoffed at her description and suggested that she was embellishing.

During winter break later in the season, Macdonald missed the first session of a two-a-day practice (which she could not participate in due to her concussion) because she was late flying back from British Columbia. She says Stone later scolded her in front of the coaching staff and two captains. Stone brought up that misstep continuously over the remainder of the school year and beyond, Macdonald said.

Stone, according to Macdonald, consistently harped on Macdonald’s weight. Macdonald said she developed an eating disorder and lost 15 pounds the summer between her freshman and sophomore seasons.

Following her sophomore season, Macdonald told Stone she was struggling with the decision to return because of how Stone treated her. Macdonald said Stone apologized for making her feel that way. She also brought up Stone berating her for missing the practice she could not participate in because of her head injury. Macdonald said Stone said she wasn’t aware Mcdonald couldn’t practice.

Macdonald returned to the team but says Stone continued to criticize her about her weight. Once, when Macdonald arrived late to practice because she was receiving medical treatment, Stone started a chant – “I hate Mac! I hate Mac!” – and goaded others to join in. (Macdonald does not know if Stone was aware she was getting treatment.)

When on April 8, McDermott, the athletic director, informed the players via email of the review of the program, Macdonald welcomed the scrutiny. Macdonald says she asked McDermott why it had taken about a month after learning of Stone’s comment for the school to do something. She said McDermott told her that players needed time to “cool off,” and that the university needed to find someone who “understands Harvard” to carry out the “conversations” with players. The school chose Mike Smith, Harvard’s NCAA faculty athletics representative. He has worked at Harvard since 1992 and chaired the committee that hired McDermott.

“There was no separation on any level,” Macdonald said. “They wouldn’t even call it an investigation.”

Macdonald still took part in the review, telling Smith and Katie Colleran, an assistant dean for student engagement and leadership, about the dysfunction and the manipulation and verbal and emotional abuse she experienced.

Another player told The Athletic she also met with Smith and Colleran and said she described her time in the program to them as “(verbally) abusive and unacceptable in every regard.” The player from Japan said she told Smith and Colleran that, given how she was treated her senior year and how little she played, she felt Stone discriminated against her because of her race and background. (Colleran, who now works at Dartmouth, did not respond to an email and message on social media requesting an interview.)

On July 19, McDermott sent to the team an email with the subject “Onward and Upward.” She thanked players for their candor during Smith’s review and announced Stone would remain coach. “I believe in Coach Stone. I believe in you. And I’m excited for the future of Harvard Women’s Ice Hockey. . . Go Crimson!”

The next day, Macdonald officially quit the team.

“I don’t want to be dealing with this in my 40s,” she said. “The fact that there’s trauma that runs that deep in (former players) that have kids and careers and families, that’s ridiculous to me. That shows how terrible this whole situation is.”

“I haven’t watched a hockey game or skated since”

Macdonald’s exit was one of many.

Sydney Daniels, an assistant coach and former captain (2013-17) and a Mistawasis First Nations member, also did not return to the team. She has since filed a complaint against the school with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, which is being investigated. Taze Thompson, a member of Metis Nation of Alberta and Okanagan Indian Band, B.C., and the Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2021-22, transferred to Northeastern in July.

Three other players left the program before the end of this past season.

They joined a lengthy list of players who left the program or finished their careers at Harvard disappointed and distraught:

• “I decided after two years I’d rather live my life not playing hockey so that I don’t have to be on this team anymore,” said an early-2000s player who quit because she felt constantly scrutinized and belittled by Stone. She recalled being scratched off one game-day roster after Stone looked at her plate of chicken and pasta and asked: “Is that all you’re eating?”

• “There was this feeling of I’m completely worthless and nobody will tell me why,” said another player from the early-2000s. She said Stone once criticized her for not smiling enough and told her that her teammates didn’t want to be around her. She finished her career at Harvard and said she needed therapy to work through what she experienced.

• “If you are not producing for her, she doesn’t give a s— about you,” said the player from the 2015-16 team. She was the player who laid on the ice, crying, after suffering a head injury, when Stone said: “Get this kid out of here!” Later, Stone repeatedly asked her why she wasn’t practicing, the player said. Feeling pressure to return to the ice despite still suffering from symptoms, including light and noise sensitivity, the player said she performed multiple conditioning tests on a stationary bike and failed them. She later arrived at the arena, found her bags packed, and said Stone told her she was a “disgrace” and off the team.

• “It was like I wasn’t even in the room,” said the player from Japan. During her freshman season (2017-18), when she offered a dissenting opinion on a uniform decision, she says Stone said to her in front of the team: “In this country, we make decisions democratically.” The next season, in November 2018, associate coach Lee-J Mirasolo used a team speech to lionize a WWII veteran who shot down five Japanese planes. The player had been a regular in the lineup her first three seasons at Harvard, but she barely played her senior season for reasons she says were never explained to her.

• “I haven’t watched a hockey game or skated since,” said a player who quit during the 2017-18 season. That year, she struggled with an eating disorder and felt depressed. When she met with an academic adviser to try to resolve a class scheduling conflict, she broke down in his office, sobbing, and confided in him that she wasn’t eating or sleeping and felt miserable. The adviser offered a straightforward solution:

Why not quit the team?

The player scoffed at the suggestion. It was absurd. She was an elite athlete. Like so many of the women whom Stone recruited to Harvard, hockey was who she was. But over the next few days, his words sunk in. She considered a life not filled with stress and anxiety. I could just not do this, the player realized.

She quit the team soon after and took a leave of absence from school to focus on her mental health.

The high number of players who recently exited the team – nine over the last two seasons – should have sounded alarms within the athletic department. So, too, should the results of a 2019 survey, commissioned by the faculty of Arts and Sciences, in which Harvard athletes were asked to respond to questions like “My coaches care about me as a person” and “I am treated fairly on my team.” McDermott told the team that the women’s hockey program ranked last in overall athlete culture and satisfaction. Yet no efforts to address those issues during the 2020-21 school year or the first half of 2021-22 were apparent to the people associated with those teams who spoke to The Athletic.

Said one player from the mid-2000s: “It makes me really angry and sad that it’s continuing to happen to these girls because I know the harm and the pain it’s caused me.”

Added Kinkopf: “It’s time to think, time to listen, time to make some changes.”

“You graduated before I was born” 

The alumni community that made Harvard women’s hockey so appealing to recruits, that has contributed vast sums of money to the program year after year, is now a house divided. Some players desire a deep accounting of Stone’s tenure, others shout down even the mere suggestion of wrongdoing. Multiple women said they no longer feel welcome at gatherings of former players, and fear being cut off from the powerful Harvard alumni network if they speak honestly about their experiences.

“We have this thing at Harvard about a Team First mentality. For me, Team First means if someone is hurting on the team and in our community, we have to do something for those players,” said a third player from the early-2000s. “I feel like Team First for (Stone’s supporters) is protecting the legacy and protecting Katey Stone.”

After the Globe article published, a group of hockey alumni communicated in an email chain and discussed how to push back against the article. One player on that chain, Vanessa McCafferty (1999-2002), responded to the group that she felt the story was balanced. She wrote:

I’m glad so many of you cherish her and felt mentored/supported but team first for me means acknowledging that for many players, it was a very different experience to varying degrees. It may not be a vendetta but just speaking the truth. I’m torn because I witnessed behavior that was abusive and also observed her being wonderful to other teammates. Favorites had a completely different experience and coach.

My conclusion is that be true to your own experience but also sensitive to all of your teammates.

A subsequent email from Lauren McAuliffe (2001-04) informed the group that McCafferty had been removed from the email chain. (McCafferty declined to comment). McAuliffe then encouraged alumni to sign a letter of support for Stone that would be sent to Harvard’s current and incoming president.

It would be imprecise to say that the fissure within the alumni base is generational. There are some players from recent teams who have spoken in Stone’s defense and players from her early teams who were critical of her in interviews with The Athletic. But the most vocal and public of her defenders are players from her first decade as coach, and the women who have put their names on allegations against her are predominantly from teams in the last decade.

Holly Johnson, the player from Stone’s first team who spoke at the HH Dinner and is also on the advisory board for the Harvard Varsity Club, penned an op-ed in the Globe in which she defended Stone’s coaching style as “characteristic of all coaches who demand excellence and don’t champion mediocrity in players.” McAuliffe shared an unpublished op-ed with The Athletic that stated that the criticism of Stone and the program was driven, in part, by “white players from privileged backgrounds that wanted Coach Stone fired because they weren’t getting their way.”

Meanwhile, younger alumni bristle at women from earlier generations dismissing what they endured. “You graduated before I was born,” said one of the players from the 2016-17 team. “How could you know what my experience was like?”

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