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Ex-UNH women’s hockey coach charged with assault

Brian McCloskey has denied wrongdoing and wants his job back.

Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff/File

Brian McCloskey has denied wrongdoing and wants his job back.

Former University of New Hampshire women’s hockey coach Brian McCloskey faces three charges of simple assault and one charge of criminal threatening after an incident with a player Nov. 30. They are misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

“There was probable cause to believe that McCloskey’s actions constituted violations of the criminal statutes of the state of New Hampshire,” said Strafford County attorney Thomas Velardi, the prosecutor on the case. “We have determined that it was appropriate to seek criminal charges in regards to his conduct with a student-athlete back in 2013.”

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McCloskey, 59, pleaded not guilty to the charges and has been out on bail since June 6. Barring a plea agreement, there will be a jury trial.

The sides will meet again with the judge on Aug. 15 to report on the status of plea negotiations. If no agreement can be reached to resolve the matter, then a trial date will be set.

“There are plea offers that are required to be made,” said Velardi. “Many criminal defendants choose not to go to trial. In this instance, it seems likely that we will have be having a trial.”

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The charges stem from what McCloskey described in a February Globe story as a heated exchange with a player, an adult sternly telling a young adult that her behavior was unacceptable. According to McCloskey, he grabbed the shoulder of a player who had sworn at him during a game.

He recalled pulling the player down to sit on the bench and swearing back at her. He said, “Don’t you ever [expletive] talk to me that way again!”

The player was Haley Breedlove from Plano, Texas, then a sophomore forward. As part of his bail conditions, McCloskey is to have “no contact . . . with the Breedlove family.”

UNH fired McCloskey, citing “inappropriate physical contact with a player on the bench.” In 12 years with the UNH women’s hockey program, he had earned Hockey East Coach of the Year honors four times.

Speaking to the Globe in February, McCloskey believed that a similar incident between a female coach and female player would not have been viewed as threatening and putting player safety in jeopardy, as UNH and now the Strafford County attorney’s office see it in his case.

“That was one of their stated reasons [for dismissal],” said McCloskey. “I just don’t think they would assume this was a threatening situation.

“Even if the exact same words were exchanged and the same tug of a jersey. I think there is a natural assumption if it’s a male that it’s threatening.”

Attempts to reach McCloskey, his attorney, and the Breedlove family were unsuccessful.

Shira Springer can be reached at springer@globe.com.
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