Alleged Hazing Leads To Firing, Puts Season On Hold

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Alleged hazing leads to firing, puts season on hold

The close-knit world of high school hockey in Livingston County was rocked Thursday by news that Howell coach Randy Montrose and his staff had been fired for what the school district called "a student hazing incident" during last weekend’s trip to the Upper Peninsula.

The school has canceled all hockey-related activities by the team, including practices and games, until an interim coach is found. The Highlanders were scheduled to play at Walled Lake Western on Saturday. Their next game is a scheduled home match against Hartland on Tuesday.

Howell Public Schools superintendent Ron Wilson said Thursday he was contacted earlier in the week by an anonymous caller "who made several allegations."

One of them involved what Montrose, in a short interview Thursday, referred to as "a runway show."

Montrose said it involved swimsuits.

Wilson contradicted that, saying that photos sent to him of both the players involved and those watching, including coaches, players and bar patrons, showed participants dressed in women’s underwear, including bras, panties and girdles while walking around a bar across the street from their Marquette hotel.

Montrose told school officials the "walk" had been a longtime tradition on the team’s annual midwinter trip to Marquette.

Both Montrose and his assistants, in a meeting with Wilson on Wednesday, confirmed the incident had occurred.

"We didn’t have much choice," Wilson said. "It’s such a clear violation of school policy and MHSAA rules."

Wilson was citing the Howell Public Schools Student/Parent Handbook, which states: "Hazing shall be defined for purposes of this policy as performing any act or coercing another, including the victim, to perform any act of initiation into any class, group, or organization that causes or creates a risk of causing mental, emotional, or physical harm. Permission, consent, or assumption of risk by an individual subjected to hazing shall not lessen the prohibitions contained in this policy."

Whether or not players consented, Wilson said, was not relevant.

"I said to (the coaches), ‘Here is the question: Would you do this at Cleary’s (Pub)?’" he said, referring to a bar in downtown Howell. "And the answer was no. ‘Why not?’ ‘It would not be appropriate.’ I said, ‘If it’s not appropriate at Cleary’s, why would it be appropriate in Marquette?’"

Montrose said that, in discussions with Howell High School principal Aaron Moran and athletic director Dan Hutcheson on Wednesday, he was given the option of taking a suspension, but then on Thursday was told to he had to resign.

Wilson said he "was not involved in any discussion" about a suspension but did say Montrose and assistants Scott Gardiner and Marty Passino, both of whom were longtime aides, did not resign but that the district had "ended its relationship with them."

Moran, through his secretary, referred all comment to Wilson. Hutcheson was unavailable for comment.

School officials met with the team’s players in the afternoon and players’ parents in the evening behind closed doors.

Wilson said other allegations are still being looked into.

"We’re still investigating things," he said. "We’re being very, very thorough."

Montrose took over the program in 2002, and was responsible for the team’s rise to berths in the Division 1 state championship game in 2009 and 2010.

He also spearheaded the creation of a team locker room at Grand Oaks Ice Arena, the team’s home, and helped send numerous players on to junior and college teams.

Jon Madden, a 2006 graduate, was on Montrose’s first Howell team.

"I’m like everyone else," he said from Stevens Point, Wis., where he is in his senior season at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. "I’m pinching myself wondering if this is really happening, like a nightmare that goes away tomorrow.

"Obviously, I’m saddened by it," he continued. "Randy’s not only done a lot for me, but he is Howell hockey. Without him there is no Howell hockey. I was there from the beginning, saw all he’s done to put (the program) on the map and make a state contender. I’m at a loss for words over what took place."

Madden said that nothing like the alleged "runway show" took place on his lone trip with the team to Marquette, but said Montrose did not allow hazing during Madden’s tenure on the team.

"When I was there, nothing ever took place where anyone hazed," he said. "(Montrose) never condoned it. If he heard anything along those lines, he would take action to stop it."

Brighton coach Paul Moggach, whose team has seen its series from Howell grow into a true rivalry over the last five years, declined comment on the firing specifically.

"I’ve known Randy since he took the job," he said. "We competed against each other, but always had a good relationship. It’s been a very competitive but respectful relationship."

Hartland coach Rick Gadwa, who played under Montrose when he and Gardiner were co-coaches there, said, "I think it’s a sad day for high school hockey and Howell in particular. He pulled Howell from a team no one noticed to a program to be feared. It’s just sad how this has gone."

A current Howell player, reached by telephone, declined comment due to the emotional impact of the decision.

"To be honest, I’m saddened to have to address the issue," Wilson said. "I was so stunned. It was real disheartening."

"He deserves better than what he’s getting," Madden said of Montrose. "It’s a sad, sad day for the hockey world and anyone involved in Howell hockey."

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