Harvard women’s hockey coach faces alleged abusive behavior

Last Friday, the Boston Globe launched an investigation into the allegations of abusive behavior from Harvard University women’s hockey coach Katey Stone. Stone is in her 26th season as head coach of the team, entering a season full of promise that suddenly took a turn for the worse after the allegations came out regarding Stone’s behavior behind the bench.

Harvard’s 2021-22 season earned them the number one seed in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), in which they suffered a heartbreaking loss to rival Princeton University. Before the team’s first game in the NCAA tournament, Stone abruptly stopped practice and called all players to the locker room and let out an outburst that witnesses called “degrading and dispiriting.”

Stone accused the players of not paying her enough respect and saying the team was filled “with too many chiefs and not enough Indians.” Former Harvard defenseman Maryna MacDonald said Stone looked her in the eyes as she made the comment. “I had learned to navigate a lot of her toxic environment,” MacDonald said.

Other players have come out and confirmed Stone’s actions, including 2021-22 Ivy League Rookie of the Year Taze Thompson, a descendent of the Cree Nation in Alberta, Canada. Thompson is one of 14 recruited players since 2016 that has left the team, including one of three this season. In the midst of players leaving, the team has also taken a significant hit with a current record of 7-13-3, just a year after finishing 22-10-1.

Sydney Daniels, captain of the 2016-17 Harvard team and current assistant coach, is suing the school “for alleged racial and other forms of discrimination related to Stone and the athletic department.” Harvard has not responded to the complaint and has until Feb. 8 to do so.

Stone’s continued abuse of the players started a backlash against the school for bringing her back as head coach. The Boston Globe’s report has brought Stone’s tactics to light, showing insensitivity to the mental health of players, neglecting education and poor motivation. After facing a formal review in 2022, Stone allegedly made discriminatory remarks to her team following a loss.

“It’s a culture of complete fear when it comes to [Stone],” said 2019-20 team captain Ali Peper. Stone has called the pillars in which she has built her team’s culture around a “meritocracy,” valuing talent and a team-first mindset that puts the team ahead of everything else.

Stone is also known to prioritize her favored players, treating certain players harshly and causing poor team chemistry. The report showed a number of complaints directed towards Stone but have received little to no answer from Harvard administrators and disciplinary roles.

Stone’s resume is one of the greatest in the history of women’s college hockey. She was named the first female coach of a United States Olympic hockey team, bringing the U.S. to the gold medal game in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where they lost 3-2 in overtime against Canada. Her 516 career wins are the most by any female coach in women’s college hockey, qualifying for 12 NCAA tournaments and reaching the championship four times.

Despite the rich tradition of winning under Coach Stone, players have still come out with their fair share of complaints and criticism against her and the school overall. “I will always cherish my time at Harvard,’” Peper said. “‘But it was not without physical and emotional scars.”