The Harvard women’s hockey program is under intense scrutiny following an article from Katie Strang and Hailey Salvian of The Athletic which unearthed a seedy underbelly of mistreatment and abuse at the hands of head coach Katey Stone.
Following up on a January article from the Boston Globe detailing the toxic culture Stone introduced and allowed to fester amongst teammates, Strang and Salvian are reporting abusive, racist, and at times cult-like behaviour from the longtime Crimson bench boss
Among the incidents outlined in the Globe’s initial report, Stone reportedly berated her team during a practice in March 2022, most notably laying into her club over a supposed lack of respect and saying the team boasted “too many chiefs and not enough Indians.”
With multiple Indigenous players on the club, including defender Maryna Macdonald, who alleges Stone looked directly at her while making the comment, the tirade had immediate reverberations.
Macdonald would eventually leave the team, alongside Taze Thompson — also of Indigenous heritage — following the remark, a microcosm of the toxicity that existed within the Crimson ranks that had pushed an alarming nine players with remaining eligibility out over the past two seasons. Harvard’s women’s program also ranked dead last in overall athlete culture and satisfaction according to a 2019 survey of Harvard athletes.
“I had learned to navigate a lot of her toxic environment,” Macdonald told the Boston Globe. “But now she was disrespecting me and my family and my heritage in front of everybody.”
Strang and Salvian outline a far deeper culture of inappropriate and abusive behaviour such as hazing and verbal abuse. The Athletic’s article describes an unsanctioned “naked skate” that the team participated in dating back to at least 2005, in which some players were made to feel uncomfortable. Additionally, in some instances, freshmen were made to “superman” slide on the ice, leaving some with ice burns and bleeding nipples.
Notably, the event was deemed unsanctioned by Stone and her staff in 2023 after a player became upset, and no direct evidence was found of Stone having any involvement with the skate. Despite that, however, The Athletic reports that one anonymous player from the last 10 years, fearing retribution, laid things out fairly plainly concerning Stone and what she would often remind her players:
“There’s not a single thing on this team that goes on that I don’t know about.”
Other hazing activities described by The Athletic include an “initiation week,” which among other things involved pressuring freshmen to participate in underage drinking — in some cases until they passed out or vomited.
One such instance is described from the 2016-17 team, in which a classmate who is allergic to alcohol was put into circumstances in which she felt she couldn’t abstain from drinking. The player and a classmate eventually separated themselves from the group, while the allergic player eventually vomited on the steps of Harvard Yard.
A culture of hazing reportedly persisted within the program, including a fining system that covered everything from what clothing a player wore, to their relationships, and even in some instances their sexual orientation or race. Players were also reportedly constantly badgered about their weight and diets, leading to multiple players developing eating disorders while playing for the team.
Stone allegedly sought to foster a climate that kept her players on edge, sowing division within the locker room and creating an environment one source likened to the Stanford Prison Experiment.
While the school did eventually conduct a “review” back in 2022 on Stone’s racially insensitive remark, Harvard refused to label the situation as an investigation and failed to adequately bring on independent outside sources. Instead, Mike Smith, Harvard’s NCAA faculty athletics representative, was tasked with interviewing the players on the matter, with the idea being that Smith “understood Harvard.”
As for the players and alumni themselves, the division has persisted amongst the ranks on how to come to terms and ultimately address the situation at hand. According to The Athletic, a split exists between those that desire to hold Stone accountable, while others remain fiercely loyal to their former head coach. Per Strang and Salvian’s story, “Multiple women said they no longer feel welcome at gatherings of former players, and fear being cut off from the powerful Harvard alumni network if they speak honestly about their experiences.”
Stone, who has been the head coach of Harvard's women's hockey team for the past 25 seasons, still holds that position as of this writing.