Katey Stone, one of the winningest coaches in the history of women’s ice hockey, announced Tuesday she is retiring from Harvard, amid an inquiry by the university into alleged abuses and other misconduct in the program she has overseen for 29 years.
Stone, 57, has not spoken publicly about the allegations, which the Globe first reported in January, six weeks before The Athletic published additional complaints. She alerted many of her former players early Tuesday about her decision to step down, shortly before Harvard announced her retirement. She also spoke to her current team Tuesday morning about her departure.
“It has been my distinct pleasure to represent Harvard and lead our storied program for nearly three decades,” Stone said in a statement released by Harvard. “The opportunity to coach and empower the amazingly talented women of Harvard hockey has been both a personal and professional privilege.
“The relationships fostered with my players over the years has been the very best part of my job. Their personal accomplishments both at Harvard and beyond, along with our shared achievements, will always be a point of great pride and inspiration for me.”
Stone’s legacy includes transforming the Harvard program into a national power, coaching the US to a gold medal in the 2011 World Championships and a silver medal at the 2014 Olympics, as well as helping to develop some of the sport’s biggest stars. She was the first woman to coach a US Olympic hockey team, and her 523 collegiate victories are the most ever for a female coach.
But her tenure was marked by a leadership style that divided players. While many praised her, others detailed a litany of complaints, including her allegedly pressuring players to return too soon from injuries; denigrating them in ways that caused some to seek mental health care; adversely influencing their academic work; and applying inconsistent disciplinary standards. There also was alleged hazing.
Stone’s supporters decried the complaints as overblown or unfounded, while Harvard commissioned a law firm in March to review the allegations. The university has not commented on the status of the inquiry.
Angela Ruggiero, a four-time Olympian and Hockey Hall of Famer who helped Stone win a national title at Harvard in 1999 and received the Patty Kazmaier Award as the nation’s best collegiate player in 2004, said Tuesday she “had a wonderful experience with Coach Stone.”
“She was a phenomenal coach who created an amazing culture for her team, both with the US program and Harvard hockey,” Ruggiero said. “I’m sad to see her go, but I’m excited for her next adventure, and no doubt she will be successful wherever she ends up.”
Ruggiero asserted that “the strong majority” of Stone’s former players share similarly positive feelings about her.
The circumstances surrounding Stone’s departure, however, add another dimension to her legacy. She will be remembered in part for allegedly fostering a culture that emotionally damaged many players, about 20 of whom shared their stories with the Globe.
Ali Peper, a captain of the 2019-20 team, said in January, “It’s a culture of complete fear when it comes to [Stone]. There is clearly a way to coach without making people hate their lives.”
Harvard athletic director Erin McDermott informed the team last year that in a 2019 survey Stone’s program ranked last among the school’s 42 varsity sports teams in the quality of its student-athletes’ experiences, And the Harvard Crimson reported in May that Stone’s program had the lowest retention rate of student-athletes among the university’s teams, with only 20 percent of the freshman class from 2019-20 remaining this year, compared with 75 percent overall among nearly 300 Harvard athletes.
After learning of Stone’s retirement, Peper said, “First and foremost, I am proud of the impact that I and the other women who spoke out about their experiences had. This has been about making positive change from the start, and I am happy to say that today is the first step towards long-term and impactful change.”
For Stone, who arrived at Harvard in 1994 and guided her teams to 12 NCAA regional tournaments, six Frozen Fours, four national title games, 14 ECAC championships, and 12 Beanpot titles, her departure appeared to follow a period of reflection.
“For coaches, leaving the program you have poured your heart and soul into for this many years is especially hard,” she said in the Harvard statement. “I believe a coach knows in their heart when it is time for change, and I look forward to supporting the next chapter in Harvard women’s hockey.”
Nicole Corriero, a three-time All-American who captained the 2004-05 team and became one of the most prolific scorers in collegiate history, described Stone’s departure as “bittersweet.”
“I’m very grateful to Katey Stone,” Corriero said. “She was an amazing coach and mentor to me. My four years at Harvard were some of the best years of my life, and a lot of it was because of the person she motivated me to be and the culture that she fostered.”
Corriero addressed the complaints about Stone from other Harvard players, which spanned nearly 25 years.
“I get that not every single person had the experience I had with Katey,” she said. “I get that those different experiences translated into different feelings toward her. All of that is equally valid. I have never disputed or questioned that.
“What’s sad for me is that there’s a perception of [her retirement] being at least somewhat associated with what transpired over the last few months. For the players she has helped to develop as some of the best to ever play the game and some of the most wonderful people you’ve ever met, it’s sad that that’s not what the lasting memories of her legacy may be.”
Notable among the players Stone recruited to Harvard and who left prematurely were two Indigenous North Americans, Taze Thompson, the 2021-22 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, and defender Maryna MacDonald. They both departed last year after they alleged Stone demeaned their heritage by accusing the team of devolving into a collection of “too many chiefs and not enough Indians.”
Stone’s assistant coach, Sydney Daniels, a former team captain who also is Indigenous, quit after the remark. She has filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
Harvard launched an in-house review after the incident. Players shared additional complaints about Stone, but McDermott informed the team after a six-month inquiry that she was standing by the coach.
On Tuesday, McDermott said, “We recognize the decades of service and commitment that Katey has given to this university and athletic department. We thank her for all she has done to build the women’s hockey program here, and we wish her the best in her future endeavors.”
Harvard said the search for a new head coach began immediately.
“Katey leaves an incredible legacy at Harvard,” said Dr. Holly Johnson, a former captain who graduated in 1996. “Her shoes will be hard to fill.”
Bob Hohler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.