The Harvard women’s hockey team is facing disturbing new allegations

Harvard Crimson women’s hockey head coach Katey Stone is under fire again. (Getty)

Harvard’s women’s hockey program is under intense scrutiny following an article by Katie Strang and Hailey Salvian from The Athletic which exposed a disturbing undercurrent of bullying and abuse by head coach Katey Stone.

Continuation to a January Boston Globe article detailing the toxic culture Stone introduced and allowed to spread among teammates, Strang and Salvian report the abusive, racist and sometimes cult-like behavior of the longtime Crimson bench boss

Among the incidents cited in the Globe’s initial report, Stone allegedly berated her team during a practice in March 2022, mostly berating her club for an alleged lack of respect and saying the team boasted “too many chiefs and not enough Indians.”

With multiple Indigenous players at the club, including defender Maryna Macdonald, who claims Stone looked directly at her as she made the comment, the tirade had immediate resonance.

Macdonald would eventually leave the team, along with Taze Thompson — also of Indigenous heritage — after that remark, a microcosm of the toxicity that existed within the Crimson’s ranks and that has ejected an alarming nine players with remaining eligibility over the last two seasons. Harvard’s women’s program also ranked last in overall athlete culture and satisfaction according to the 2019 Harvard Female Athlete Survey.

“I learned to navigate her toxic environment,” Macdonald told the Boston Globe. “But now she was belittling me and my family and my heritage in front of everyone.”

Strang and Salvian outline a far deeper culture of inappropriate and offensive behavior such as bullying. The Athletic article describes an unsanctioned “naked skating” the team engaged in, dating back to at least 2005, that made some players feel uncomfortable. In addition, in some cases freshmen were made to “superman” skate on the ice, leaving some with ice burns and bleeding nipples.

In fact, Stone and her staff ruled the event illegal in 2023 after one player became upset, and no direct evidence was found that Stone was involved in the skate. Despite this however, The Athletic reports that one anonymous player from the last 10 years, fearing retribution, made things pretty clear about Stone and what she would often remind her players:

“There’s not a single thing that happens on this team that I don’t know about.”

Other abusive activities described by The Athletic include “initiation week,” which included, among other things, pressuring freshmen to engage in underage drinking in some cases until they passed out or threw up.

One such example was described from the 2016-17 team, in which a classmate allergic to alcohol was placed in circumstances where she felt she could not refrain from drinking. The player and a classmate eventually became separated from the group, while the allergic player ended up throwing up on the steps of Harvard Yard.

In addition, a culture of banter remained present within the program, including a punishment system that covered everything from the clothes a player wore to their relationships, and even in some cases their sexual orientation or race. The players were also allegedly constantly tormented about their weight and diet, leading to several players developing eating disorders while playing for the team.

Players generally felt that the scrutiny was especially intense under the highly regulated program built by Stone, with everything from the privilege of using the locker room reserved before the start of their freshman season on the table. Stone reportedly sought to foster a climate that kept her players on edge, sowing divisiveness in the locker room and creating an environment one person likened to a Stanford prison experiment.

While the school eventually conducted an “audit” in 2022 of Stone’s racially insensitive remarks, Harvard refused to describe the situation as an investigation and failed to adequately involve independent outside sources. Instead, Mike Smith, Harvard’s NCAA faculty athletic representative, was tasked with interviewing players on the matter, with the idea that Smith “understood Harvard.”

As for the players themselves and former players, there is division among the ranks on how to reconcile and finally resolve the current situation. According to The Athletic, there is a split between those who want to hold Stone accountable, while others remain fiercely loyal to their former head coach. Story by Per Strang and Salvian, “Several women said they no longer felt welcome at alumni gatherings and feared being cut off from Harvard’s powerful alumni network if they spoke candidly about their experiences.”

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