The catalyst for A.J. Thelen’s dismissal from the Michigan State hockey team on Monday was his underage drinking the night before a game, and missing a team function, the Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday.
Thelen admitted in the newspaper story that he was benched for last Friday’s game against Notre Dame for missing a VIP reception the previous weekend. After Friday’s game, he went out drinking. According to Thelen, his teammates told coach Rick Comley about his drinking after Saturday’s pregame skate.
At that point, Thelen said, Comley told Thelen he was “done,” according to the Free Press article.
Thelen, 18, a first-round draft pick of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild last summer, had a standout freshman season with 11 goals and 29 points while being named the CCHA’s Best Offensive Defenseman Award winner. But this season, Thelen had no goals and 11 assists in 33 games, and was a minus-5.
Thelen was quoted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune saying that Comley had a double standard. He clarified that to the Free Press.
Thelen told the Free Press that another player missed the VIP reception but wasn’t benched. He also said that, in the past when players were caught drinking, the team was punished but that no one was ever dismissed from the team.
But Comley said, Thelen’s issues were building for a long time.
“He was not dismissed from the team for one incident,” Comley said to the Free Press. “I’m not trying to run his name through the mud. That’s not my intent.
“I wouldn’t take an action like this if I didn’t feel it was warranted. It was a difficult thing to do. I hope he gets his act together and has a successful future in hockey.”
Comley called out Thelen as far back as October for being out of shape.
Thelen, a native of Savage, Minn., said he met with Wild officials Monday, and the meeting went well.
Michigan State has had a disappointing season overall, hovering around .500 and currently sitting outside the NCAA tournament bubble.
“I think there’s a lot of players on the team that are unhappy,” Thelen said to the Free Press. “There’s not a lot of trust on the team right now. This season is just out of control.”