Maple Grove hockey coach Stefano reinstated

Gary Stefano returned to the Maple Grove helm after a district probe involving his Crimson.

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Maple Grove High School head hockey coach Gary Stefano

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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Maple Grove boys' hockey coach Gary Stefano was reinstated to the position Friday evening, only one day after he had been placed on administrative leave with pay during a district investigation involving the team.

Stefano was not on the bench Thursday night for the Crimson's 5-2 loss at Blaine. Maple Grove played without 13 team members who were suspended for at least two games each after an investigation into an incident at a home in mid-December.

Barbara Olson, District 279 community relations director, said Friday morning that a new complaint against Stefano had prompted the district to launch a separate investigation. Olson did not comment on the nature of the complaint or whether it was tied to the mid-December incident.

Early Friday evening, Olson sent an e-mail saying the investigation had been concluded "and we're pleased to report that Mr. Stefano has been reinstated.''

Initial attempts to reach Stefano for comment Friday night were not successful.

Olson said Friday night that "the investigation was about the team, which happens to be under his leadership. Therefore, as leader he was put on administrative leave with pay so that we could conduct a thorough investigation.''

Her e-mail said Stefano "has developed a strong hockey program'' in his 17 years of coaching "and made significant contributions to our school community. We look forward to continued success for the program.

Details of the incident that resulted in the players' suspensions were not disclosed. The district conducted a "thorough investigation'' and found violations of the Minnesota State High School League's code of conduct, Olson said.

Stefano said on Wednesday that "a couple'' of players face four-game suspensions.

The Crimson's next game is Tuesday at Anoka. The player suspensions represent more than half of Maple Grove's published varsity roster.

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