Former UAA hockey coach Dave Shyiak says his reputation and job prospects have suffered from a “greatly exaggerated’’ and “false’’ account of his physical confrontation with a player, and it is all part of an orchestrated effort to oust his ex-boss, athletic director Steve Cobb.
Shyiak, in a written statement emailed to the Daily News on Monday, said a story published May 14, which described him hitting player Nick Haddad across the legs with a hockey stick during a 2011 practice, “has resulted in irreparable damages including lost opportunity for coaching positions and having family members experience extreme and unnecessary stress and anxiety.’’
Cobb fired Shyiak on March 29 after eight losing seasons. Shyiak contends that a small group of UAA hockey alumni and community members are actively working to get Cobb fired as well.
Former UAA hockey player Mickey Spencer, in a letter dated May 1, told University of Alaska president Patrick Gamble and other university officials that he witnessed Shyiak use a “baseball style’’ swing to slash Haddad in a “hard’’ and “violent’’ manner across the front of his hockey pants.
Haddad sent his own written statement last week confirming the slash, but saying it was not as hard as Spencer described and caused him no injury. He said he accepted Shyiak’s apology, which was offered the next day. The incident was blown out of proportion, Haddad said.
But he added that it’s “not acceptable for a coach to do this to one of his players, and there is no excuse for it to have happened.’’
Shyiak, through his attorney, Kevin Fitzgerald, said last week that the slash was not as severe as Spencer said and was designed only to get Haddad’s attention after he failed to properly execute a drill.
All parties -- Spencer, Shyiak and Haddad -- have confirmed that Shyiak and Haddad traded expletives immediately after the incident and were physically separated by other players at the practice.
Shyiak said UAA hockey alumni and members of the hockey community had drafted a one-page letter that falsely summarized the Haddad incident. Shyiak alleged that a “hockey alumni and former UAA Assistant Hockey Coach emailed the letter to senior players from the Class of 2013’’ and asked them to endorse it. Shyiak said the players refused to do so.
Regg Simon, a former UAA captain who was an assistant coach under Shyiak for two seasons (2008-10), on Monday sent his own statement to the Daily News:
“Okay, so let me get this straight: Coach Shyiak allegedly did something deplorable, and as a way to deflect negative attention from himself, he’s pointing the finger at someone else? Previous news coverage has stated the facts of the incident. I have no further comments.’’
Shyiak said Spencer’s letter to Gamble included “much of what was contained in the greatly exaggerated and false statement’’ recently drafted by alumni.
But in fact a Daily News reporter first heard Spencer’s account of the incident more than a year before his letter to Gamble, and several times since, and his account has been the same each time.
Cobb last week said that he spoke to several players who were on the ice during the Shyiak-Haddad incident, as well as to a couple of staff members present, and he concluded Shyiak’s slash was not malicious and did not require punishment or further investigation.
UAA said last week that because Spencer’s allegation, “if true, may constitute criminal behavior,’’ an investigation was being conducted by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Police Department.
After UAA appointed a four-person search committee of three Seawolf coaches and a faculty athletic representative to find Shyiak’s replacement, both the Alaska State Hockey Association and the UAA Hockey Alumni Association complained about the lack of alumni or non-UAA members of the Anchorage hockey community. Both organizations issued votes of no confidence in Cobb.
On May 2, UAA chancellor Tom Case suspended the search for a new coach. On May 7, UAA appointed a supplemental search committee, reopened the job to applicants and tweaked the job criteria to attract a wider field of candidates. The six-man supplemental committee includes UAA hockey founder Brush Christiansen and three former Seawolves, including Mark Filipenko, president of the UAA Hockey Alumni Association.
Shyiak said the actions aimed at Cobb have harmed him.
“The efforts of this small group of Alumni have been horribly misguided,’’ Shyiak wrote. “ These efforts have also been short sighted and have affected the integrity of the University.
“One can only imagine what the pool of candidates for new coach must think of these events.”
Find Doyle Woody’s blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.