Cobb investigated slashing incident, decided coach didn't deserve punishment

Doyle Woody

UAA athletic director Steve Cobb said Friday he did not discipline hockey head coach Dave Shyiak for slashing a player in a 2011 practice because his investigation determined the contact was not severe enough to merit punishment.

Cobb said Shyiak in 2011 confirmed to him that he struck and exchanged words with forward Nick Haddad, but said his contact was not malicious.

"He told me, at the time, there was contact, but not of a vicious nature,'' Cobb said in a phone interview.

Cobb said he spoke with a few Seawolves players, the equipment manager and a trainer, judged the incident was not as severe as had been reported to him by a third party and did not necessitate discipline against Shyiak.

"I didn't think it warranted further investigation,'' Cobb said. "We decided there wasn't anything to pursue. We didn't think the kids' safety and health was in jeopardy, and we didn't think there would be any repercussions for the athlete.''

Cobb said Haddad relayed to him through a third party in 2011 that he did not have anything to say about the incident. "We don't tell anyone they have to speak -- part of my job is to protect people's privacy,'' Cobb said.

Former UAA forward Mickey Spencer in a recent letter to University of Alaska president Patrick Gamble said Shyiak's slash with his hockey stick was a "baseball style'' swing that was "hard'' and "violent.'' Two other former players who said they witnessed the incident and have been granted anonymity by the Daily News confirmed Spencer's account.

Shyiak, through his attorney, Kevin Fitzgerald, this week confirmed that he slashed Haddad and argued with him before the two were separated. Fitzgerald said Shyiak's slash was not designed to injure and was an attempt to get Haddad's attention during a drill. Haddad was not injured.

Haddad in a statement this week said Shyiak's behavior was unacceptable, but that the severity of Shyiak's slash was exaggerated by Spencer and others. Haddad said he accepted Shyiak's apology, which came the day after the incident at the school's Wells Fargo Sports Complex, and would have no further comment.

UAA this week said investigator Stephen Goetz of the UAF Police Department is investigating the Shyiak-Haddad incident.

"UAA is committed to letting that investigation run its course without any interference or influence,'' Olson wrote in an email Thursday night.

In 2010, Cobb disciplined Shyiak with a formal reprimand after the coach threw a water bottle across the ice during a Governor's Cup game against UAF in Fairbanks. In that incident, Shyiak also stepped onto the ice to argue with officials and was ejected from the game.

UAA fired Shyiak on March 29 after eight losing seasons. The Shyiak-Haddad incident became public after Shyiak was fired.

Cobb said the Shyiak-Haddad incident of 2011 differed from a 2006 incident in which he suspended then-men's basketball associate head coach Shane Rinner for eight days without pay. Cobb announced Rinner's suspension soon after Rinner slapped point guard Luke Cooper hard on the back of the neck during a timeout in a game in Lacey, Wash.

Cobb said men's basketball coach Rusty Osborne called him immediately after the game and reported the incident. Rinner and Cooper gave similar accounts of the incident, Cobb said, and game video supported their accounts.

While noting Rinner's otherwise "spotless work record here,'' Cobb at the time said Rinner's "inappropriate behavior'' would not be tolerated, and the school had to send a message.

Cooper in 2006 told the Daily News he did not believe Rinner's act was malicious or intended to injure. He said the coach apologized to him repeatedly and the relationship between the two men was fine. Rinner expressed remorse about the incident.

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