GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Head coach Dave Hakstol will miss North Dakota’s home series with Denver Feb. 15-16 because of a two-game suspension resulting from an obscene gesture he made toward an official during UND’s game Saturday at Minnesota.
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) also issued a public reprimand of Hakstol for violating the league’s Code of Conduct and Sportsmanship policies. A WCHA news release said the league “endorsed the strong actions and stern tone taken by the University of North Dakota and now considers this issue closed.”
UND suspended Hakstol the day after he issued a written public statement in which he said, “I would like to sincerely apologize to our fans, players and entire program, as well as all college hockey fans, the WCHA and Don Adam, for my actions during the second period of last night’s game versus the University of Minnesota.”
Hakstol said he had a brief phone conversation with Adam after the game in which he apologized to the referee.
During the game, which ended in a 1-1 tie, Hakstol and assistant referee C.J. Beaurline engaged in a discussion at the Sioux bench in the second period after an altercation between Sioux and Gopher players led to a Minnesota power play.
As the conversation ended and Beaurline turned away, Hakstol held up his middle finger. The AR didn’t appear to notice the gesture, but Fox Sports Network cameras showed it on live television. Photos of the UND coach’s action appeared on the Internet soon after the game.
“My concern began as soon as I made the gesture,” Hakstol said during a news conference today. “It was something that was a reaction in the heat of the moment that I knew immediately was obviously improper at the time.”
UND President Charles E. Kupchella said, “Obviously we were disappointed by the grossly inappropriate actions of Dave Hakstol last Saturday. There is simply no excuse for such displays, anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances.
“We all regret that our coach’s action has tarnished an otherwise superb athletic tradition at UND, and on behalf of the entire UND community, I extend our sincere apology to hockey fans and UND supporters everywhere,” he said.
UND’s co-acting athletic directors Betty Ralston and Steve Brekke met with Hakstol Monday morning and then decided to suspend him for two games. Ralston said the president’s office and the athletic department received many calls and e-mails following the game.
“Mainly, it was North Dakota people who responded,” she said. “The e-mails and phone calls were from people who were watching the game with their children. That was the biggest concern, and our concern is that there are certain actions that just aren’t acceptable.”
In his apology, Hakstol wrote: “Most importantly, I am a parent before I am a coach, and I understand the responsibility that we carry as coaches within the WCHA to young hockey fans and families everywhere.”
The Sioux are off this week, but UND’s next series with the Pioneers could be pivotal to where the team finishes in the WCHA and its playoff position. Currently, UND is in second place, five points ahead of Denver, which has four games in hand. The Sioux are two points behind first-place Colorado College, which has two games in hand on UND.
Hakstol said the series against Denver will be coached by associate head coach Cary Eades, assistant coach Dane Jackson and volunteer assistant coach Scott Koberinski.
Normally known for his unflappable manner and unchanging expression on the bench, Hakstol said, “I hope that the people who know me would say that Saturday night was a little bit out of character. I would hope they would say it’s a lot out of character.
“One of the things I take a lot of pride in is composure and poise and holding that composure regardless of what the situation is,” he continued. “Last Saturday night was clearly a case of losing composure, allowing a little bit of frustration and allowing emotions to take over and reacting out of those.
“I’m not here to make excuses,” Hakstol added. “I’m here fully to take accountability for my actions on Saturday. It’s not about how I got to that point. It’s kind of inconsequential to me at this point. I take a lot of pride in reacting to those situations a heck of a lot better than I did on Saturday.”
Asked if he had discussed the incident with the team, Hakstol said, “I’ve addressed the players on this issue and been very honest with them. There’s accountability for each and every action. Everyone in the program is exactly the same. There’s great accountability that we have to the public, to our fans and to college hockey fans.”
Showing contrition during the news conference, Hakstol said, “Out of this, I will learn a good lesson. Regardless of how difficult and certainly embarrassing this is for me, personally and professionally, I’ll have an opportunity to learn from it.
“In some way, shape or form, it’s going to make me a better person, a better coach. It will help me improve,” he said.