Underage Drinking Allegations Leveled Against Gopher Players

Several Minnesota hockey players under the age of 21 were identified drinking at a Minneapolis bar by Minneapolis/St. Paul television station KMSP, which reported its allegations on its Sunday evening news telecast and on its website.

Filmed secretly either buying, possessing or drinking alcohol by KMSP over a two-month period were Gopher players including Kris Chucko, Jeff Frazee, Evan Kaufmann, Alex Goligoski, and Derek Peltier, each of whom was underage at the time of the filming (Kaufmann is now 21).

The location was Blarney Pub and Grill, which is in Dinkytown, a neighborhood adjacent to the Minnesota campus on the east side of the Mississippi River. The report also alleged that Gopher players gained admittance to the bar without showing identification, and in some cases without paying the cover charge.

Other underage Gopher players were also filmed in attendance after 9 p.m., which the station said policy at the establishment sets as the time after which underage persons are no longer allowed inside. Those additional players were not necessarily identified drinking alcoholic beverages.

The owner of Blarney’s, identified by KMSP as Mike Mulrooney, was quoted on the station’s website as saying, “Neither I nor any of my staff has knowingly served alcohol to an underage patron of my establishment.”

The university, which was provided a copy of KMSP’s videotape, is reportedly investigating. Drinking by underage players would be a violation of team rules, as well as a legal infraction.

On Wednesday, the university issued the following statements from head coach Don Lucia and athletic director Joel Maturi:

“I am disappointed and concerned with the choices that some of our student-athletes made in connection with recent reports of underage drinking,” Lucia said in the statement. “This is an issue we take seriously and one that we will deal with internally, just as we would with any other situation that arises within our program. This is an opportunity for myself, the University community and players’ parents to continue to educate these student-athletes on the issues surrounding underage drinking.

“It is important to remind our student-athletes about the role they play as representatives of the University of Minnesota and how visible they are in the public eye. Our student-athletes have a responsibility to act in a manner that will reflect positively on the University, their team and the greater community.

“Our coaching staff is trying to promote good choices on the ice, in the classroom and in the community. As a parent of four children, I will treat my players as I would my own. I will use this opportunity to not only discipline, but to help them grow and mature for now and all their future endeavors.”

Said Maturi, “The issue of underage drinking by student-athletes is one that we take very seriously as an athletics department and campus community. It is something that impacts every college and university across the country and we will continue to try and educate all of our student-athletes on the issues surrounding underage drinking. Student-athletes at the University of Minnesota are expected to follow the department’s code of conduct and any violations will be dealt with internally. Coach Lucia is someone who handles his program with integrity and together we will deal with this situation appropriately.”