ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Former Alaska-Anchorage hockey coach Dave Shyiak violently struck a player with his stick during a practice in 2011 and then instructed his players to keep quiet about the incident, former Seawolves winger Mickey Spencer alleges in a letter to University of Alaska president Patrick Gamble.
Spencer also sent the letter, dated May 1, 2013, to the university Board of Regents and chancellor Tom Case.
Spencer said he saw Shyiak strike Alaska-Anchorage forward Nick Haddad with a "baseball-style" swing during a drill at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex on Jan. 11, 2011. He said Shyiak apparently became angered when Haddad failed to stop in front of the net, as instructed, during a drill.
"He tomahawked, lumber-jacked-whatever you want to call it-him across the thigh on his (hockey) pants," Spencer said. "We knew this wasn't a small deal, it's kind of a big deal. I've seen a coach break a stick over a goalpost or the glass because he's pissed about something, but I've never seen one take out his anger on a player."
Two other former Seawolf team members told the Daily News they also witnessed the incident and they corroborated the details of Spencer's account. They said they would speak only on the condition of anonymity.
Asked in 2011 by a Daily News reporter about rumors of an incident, shortly after it was alleged to have happened, Haddad denied it. On Monday, in response to a text message from the Daily News, Haddad texted back, "No comment."
Shyiak was fired by Alaska-Anchorage athletic director Steve Cobb on March 29 after eight losing seasons.
Shyiak's attorney, Kevin Fitgerald, said Shyiak disputes Spencer's characterization of the incident.
"He confirms he did strike Nick's knee pads with his stick," Fitzgerald said. "It wasn't an assault. It was, in essence, an attempt to get Nick's attention. It wasn't designed to injure Nick. It didn't cause any injury. Nick didn't report to the trainer, didn't suffer an injury, didn't go to the hospital."
Haddad, then a senior, played in a two-game series that opened three days after the incident.
Spencer said Haddad and Shyiak exchanged expletives immediately after the stick incident, and Shyiak kicked Haddad off the ice for the rest of practice. In a team meeting the next day, Spencer said, Shyiak told the players he had apologized to Haddad.
Spencer said Shyiak told them not to talk about the incident if questioned and to keep the matter within the team.
In his letter to Gamble, Spencer said, "In more specific words, Shyiak told players, if asked about the incident, to reply, 'No comment, we were preparing for this weekend and things can get intense, it was nothing out of the ordinary.' "
Fitzgerald said Shyiak denies he told players to downplay the incident.
Spencer said players did not report the incident to UAA administrators or discuss it with reporters out of concern that doing so might damage their hockey careers.
"To say that we players feared for our playing time and scholarships if we spoke up is an understatement," Spencer wrote to Gamble.
Megan Olson, UAA's vice chancellor for university advancement, said in a statement emailed to the newspaper Monday that "because the allegation, if true, may constitute criminal behavior, the University has referred the allegation to law enforcement."
The investigation is being conducted by Stephen Goetz of the University of Alaska Fairbanks police department.
Olson added that Goetz, while associated with UAF, "has no connection with UAA, and is well respected among law enforcement professionals."
Spencer told the Daily News that as of Saturday he had been contacted three times by an investigator.
Fitzgerald said Shyiak has not talked to Goetz.