Hockey players sue university for $1M over alleged abuses
Four players from the University of Lethbridge women’s hockey team are suing the school, its sports director and the team’s coach.
A statement of claim filed Tuesday in Court of Queen’s Bench names Olivia Alexander, Alannah Jensen, Chelsea Kasprick and Brittney Sawyer as plaintiffs seeking $1 million in general damages, in addition to other sums.
The women claim in court documents obtained by Postmedia that they were harassed and intimidated while playing for the Pronghorns.
They allege coach Michelle Janus made abusive remarks to players and allowed bullying on the team.
The women also allege the university and sports executive director Ken McInnes did not do enough — namely firing Janus as head coach — when multiple concerns were raised as early as 2015.
None of the allegations has been proven in court and the university has said it will not provide any comments specific to the lawsuit.
The 13-page statement of claim says the players were “subjected to the harassing and demeaning conduct, representations, omission and/or negligence of McInnes and Janus.”
“The defendants harassed and bullied the plaintiffs by engaging in threatening and intimidating behaviours, not providing them proper care, calling them names and suggesting they were mentally unstable on a daily basis,” the document states.
The players also allege the university breached its contracts with the players by failing to maintain an environment free from discrimination, bullying and harassment.
A list of damages alleged by the players include physical, psychological and emotional harm, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, headaches, insomnia and loss of interest in playing sports, specifically hockey.
Among the plantiffs’ specific complaints contained in the statement of claim:
■ A fine jar established for breaking ■ team rules saw players fined for their personal lives or sexual history;
■ A player who told Janus and McInnes the team culture was affecting her mental health was told “life isn’t fair” and “you are mentally unstable.”
■ Janus told Kasprick in October ■ 2016 not to talk about or mention her off-season shoulder surgery if she wanted to continue playing. “Due to the threat Chelsea felt she was unable to show she was hurting or in pain. As a result, Chelsea stopped going to the team trainers, rehab and physio,” the lawsuit claims. On the advice of two doctors, the player now requires more extensive surgery to address damage to her shoulder, according to the statement of claim.
Janus has coached the Pronghorns women’s hockey team since July 2015, according to the university’s website. McInnes, who has been at the University of Lethbridge for almost 30 years, was named sports executive director around the same time.
A list of 21 complaints were submitted to the university in May by six players, including the four who have filed the lawsuit. They outlined concerns with Janus under the university’s harassment and discrimination policy and asked for her termination.
That resulted in the university launching an investigation. It concluded with a response from acting chief human resources officer Nancy Walker on July 31.
The defendants harassed and bullied the plaintiffs by engaging in threatening and intimidating behaviours.