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College Hockey:
Middlebury player suing school after being dismissed from team

According to a report out of WPTZ in Plattsburgh, N.Y., Middlebury junior forward Jak Knelman has filed a lawsuit against the school and coach Bill Beaney stemming from his dismissal from the team this past January.

The suit seeks damages in excess of $75,000 and alleges that Knelman feels he was wrongly booted from the team when he left an alumni hockey banquet before it ended.

Knelman claims he left early to spend time with his father, who was visiting for the weekend. Knelman’s lawyers claim that Beaney berated Knelman in front of the entire team and then suspended and dismissed Knelman from the team.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vt., Wednesday morning, seeks recovery of damages and equitable relief to remedy breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, breach of fiduciary duties and defamation in conjunction with his dismissal from the team.

Middlebury issued the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

Middlebury College will answer the specifics of the complaint by Middlebury student James Knelman in due course. As with most lawsuits, there’s more to the story than has been presented by one side’s attorney. Middlebury values its student-athletes, the successes they have achieved in academics and sports, and the coaches who provide their teams with leadership and support.


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  • Smitty5601

    this is silly, this kid’s parents run his show and are making him sue. so ridiculous…. you’re kid is 20 years old… let go…

  • After Further Review

    Just the way things are now. I didn’t get my way, I am going to sue. If he was required by the team he plays for to be at that function, he needed to be at that function and that should be the end of it. I guess it is no different than somebody being kicked off a team for “violation of team rules.”

  • Niclas135

    Wow, what this world coming to now? Next thing we’ll see is a lawsuit for being benched during a game. By the way, there is “contract breach” since there is no contract in college athletics. No coach gives a guarantee of playing time or continued participation in a sport, regardless of behavior. “defamation” can apply to EVERY coach who ever yelled at a player in a locker room. Wonder what Bob Knight thinks of this latest beauty in our twisted college sports world…

  • Tyson

    This kid is a total joke. “Mommy, Daddy, coach benched me! Fix it, fix it!” Such stupid people out there. It’s the gene pool at work!

  • FD8

    Last I checked, WPTZ is in Plattsburgh, which is in New York.

  • Silver

    You don’t boot a kid off a team for just that. You suspend him from games. You don’t berate anyone infront of a group of people. Yes, times have changed and you can’t get away with defamation, just like you can’t say anything against somebody’s race or religion anymore. These colleges are not free and there is money involved. The guy probably goes to the college to play hockey so I can understand him being upset. The coach could have handled this in a more mature manner.

    • After Further Review

      That’s what the kid says, no other players on the team have said that. If it’s an event that the team should have been at, he needed to be there as part of the TEAM. Anybody that ha played team sports knows sometimes of the field/court/ice functions are necessary to attend. If the coach truly acted the way he did, then the kid has the right to be upset, but a lawsuit? Absolutely crazy!

      • After Further Review

        And, on top of that, it was an alumni hockey banquet. I am guessing the alumni would like to see the current players there, especially if they donate money to help fund the hockey program.

  • Anonymous

    Well, if this family wanted to take an indirect potshot at Middlebury by perpetuating the stereotypical (and quite unfair) perception of the kinds of kids who attend NESCAC schools, then mission accomplished.  I don’t see them getting much else out of this.

  • Chfan222

     I don’t think the coach had the right to suspend him let alone kick him off the team for this. The NCAA has very strict rules about off season meetings of teams. Anything in the off season that isn’t pre approved for meeting in the off season like Spring Football practices is suppose to be voluntary. Some major football schools got in trouble for doing sign in sheets at off season workouts.

    • After Further Review

       If you read the story, it happened in January.

  • TheWholeTruth

    To all the people that read the news story and not the actual story, and to all the people that are judging this kid before they have gone over the lawsuit: You do not understand half of the situation. This is not about not playing, being benched or unhappy parents.  This is about a kid who was a leading scorer, a legit member of the team, and a well-liked kid on campus and a very successful student, who was unjustly dismissed from the middlebury hockey team because of a coach’s stubborn behavior.  Jak did nothing wrong and was subsequently alienated, humiliated and wrongfully accused of behavior that has prematurely ended his hockey career.  Before you have an opinion, be informed.  Open your eyes and look at the big picture, stop pretending like the problems that you have are the same as his.  Trust me, they are not even close.

    Article/Lawsuit: http://nescachockey.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/full-knelman-complaint-against-middlebury-and-beaney/

  • After Further Review

     Are you a player on the team?  Were you there?  If you were, then you might have some insight that we don’t have.  Nobody is pretending that his situation is the same as ours, but the bottom line is the coach is the boss, what he says goes.  I hope he handled it the right way, the kid is saying he didn’t.  What’s the real truth?  We don’t know yet.
    I am not judging the kid, nor do I necessarily think most others are, but it’s just the way the times have changed.  Things like this have happened to many people who never decided that legal action was the way to go.  Now, it happens all the time, if you are wronged, just sue them!
    I did find the article a bit entertaining.  I do not know Jak, nor have I ever seen him play hockey.  But, I am a huge college hockey fan and thought this statement by him was all about trying to get more money: “economic loss of his professional hockey career.”  Is he serious?  Maybe he could have made it someday, but if he had a legit chance, he wouldn’t be at D3 Middlebury.

  • None

    The kid might have been wronged, but a lawsuit? He’s wasting his parent’s money. There is no legal obligation to keep a kid on a team. 

  • Billymbrew

     Im impressed by how you guys are debating with such minimal information available.

  • Quagmire

     It’s Middlebury…they probably had it coming

  • Duke

    Unless you are Beaney or one of the players you have no idea what happened leading up to this situation. 

  • Niclas135

     Anyone who is an employer and played a sport (any sport) will remember this kid’s name because of this lunacy. Unfortunately (for him), the kid cannot undo this and it will stay with him for a very long time. In the case, which I read in its entirety, it states that a letter for future employers is required. Well, I got news for you kid. No one who was a member of a sports team will appreciate the position of someone who did not accept a challenging situation and deal with it maturely. If you file a lawsuite against your coach, how can the employer ever trust that you will meet all the demands and unexpected challenges of your job? Will you do the same every time you do not get your way in life? Will you disrespect team obligations and rules if you are asked to do so by the company you work for? If you think that CEOs or even mid management will respect you for taking this action (since you are so concerned about ‘future employement opportunity’-you are in for a treat of the real world… You will be black listed with every company where you will find former athletes in its management. You certainly will be in mine… 

  • Ryan53d

    there has to be more to this story than this kid leaving a banquet dinner to soon,especially if he was one of the best players on the team,just doesnt add up….. 

    • After Further Review

       I agree.  Does anybody know why he transferred from Colgate in the first place?  Were there “problems” there or did he get upset because he only played 2 games.

  • HockeyFan

     Good for DIII hockey finally getting some much-needed attention!