Last Saturday, Minneapolis/St. Paul's City Pages reported that Maple Grove high school, in a suburb of Minneapolis, had suspended much of its hockey team and its head coach for reasons that have gone undisclosed in the intervening week. A source told City Pages the rumor that Maple Grove hockey players make sex tapes as an annual tradition, and one teacher in the school district said on Twitter that this year's edition, featuring a possibly drunk and possibly 15-year old girl, had led to the suspensions. No official has confirmed that account, though recent statements to the press from Maple Grove's hockey coach and principal were very grave and did not deny the existence of a video.
The Pioneer Press reported last week that 13 players had been suspended for "an incident last month at a private home." That article also noted that, after a solitary day of administrative leave, the school reinstated head coach Gary Stefano (pictured), even before reports came out about the nature of the suspensions. An additional source told City Pages that the tape in question was "horrible," though if a tape exists, no one in the press seems to have seen it. While the situation is different from the Steubenville rape case—no one has filed a police report, for starters, and details are far hazier—there are echoes of the factors that contributed to the lackadaisical investigation there. From the Star Tribune:
[S]ome school employees said the suspensions — along with the investigation of Stefano — pointed to larger problems and exposed a culture in which hockey players seemed to enjoy an exalted status not afforded other students.
School district and high school officials have been tight-lipped not only about what occurred but in reacting to it.
In the past week, most of the suspended players have returned, and Stefano, Maple Grove Principal Sara Vernig, and school district athletics head Wendy Loberg held a press conference in which they did not specify what lead to the suspension, did not debunk the sex tape rumor due to privacy concerns, and blamed Jersey Shore for whatever did or didn't happen:
At a news conference called Thursday to talk about how to move the team forward, school officials declined to give specifics on what led to the suspension of 13 players last week. When reporters asked Principal Sara Vernig about the purported existence of a sex video stemming from the incident, she said: "I can't answer that. It's part of the investigation.''
She later added, "I'll tell you, personally, it's been devastating and disappointing."
Longtime head coach Gary Stefano called it "by far my worst experience'' in 32 years as a coach. He said references to a purported video called "The Show" had been "brought up." School officials stopped him from answering further, citing privacy laws.
Loberg also said that what occurred was part of a larger societal problem and that risqué movies and TV shows contribute to the problem.
"When we look at our role models, and we look at our shows that are No. 1 in the eyes of kids, [it's] 'Jersey Shore,' 'Hangover,'" Loberg said.
The rest of the briefing focused on an "action plan," detailed here. The first and perhaps most ambitious step: For "staff" to "organize a meeting for all coaches to discuss how to provide opportunities to develop positive leadership skills among our athletes." Gutsy leadership from the school's administration in the coming weeks will, no doubt, provide an example for the players.
Picture via MN Hockey Hub
Maple Grove High School Hockey Scandal Reportedly Involved Player Sex Tape [City Pages]
Suspensions Haunt Maple Grove Hockey Team [Star Tribune]