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Angry hockey dad tried to destroy elite Ontario coach’s career, countersuit alleges

A Kitchener, Ont., hockey coach has launched a $1.29 million countersuit alleging a hockey dad angry over his son’s ice time is lying to try to ruin his career, roughly three months after the parents launched a civil case claiming the coach abused their son.

Both cases are open and ongoing and neither parties’ claims have been proven in court.

Lawyer Phil Millar, who represents AAA coach Michael Nicoll, accuses a couple from London, Ont., of “misusing the legal system for their own personal agenda.” Global News is not identifying the couple in order to protect the identity of their underage son.

The countersuit claims that the father “openly bragged about ruining the career of a coach for failing to give his son sufficient ice time.”

According to the statement of claim, the couple’s son was selected to the Huron Perth Lakers under-13 AAA team on April 29, 2023, but an assessment noted that his skating skills needed to improve over the off-season. In September 2023, the defendants’ son was moved from defence to forward because “his backwards skating skills were not sufficient for the AAA-level.”

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On Oct. 15, 2023, the statement alleges that the defendants submitted a complaint to the Huron-Perth Lakers Minor Hockey Association’s executive over concerns about ice time. The statement also notes that hockey at the AAA level is considered competitive and equal ice time is not guaranteed.

At a weekend tournament in Barrie later that month, the statement alleges that the player’s father told an executive member of the association that “he was going to complain to Hockey Canada to destroy the Plaintiff’s coaching career” and that he “continuously disrupted other Team parents by constantly approaching them and talking about how he would ensure these coaches would never coach again” which prompted a complaint to the Team’s parent representative.

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The statement alleges that after the third game of the tournament, he confronted the coach and began “shouting and cursing” at him about his son’s ice time. It’s alleged he also “repeatedly threatened to get (Nicoll) fired.”

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The countersuit lists further instances of alleged inappropriate language and aggressive behaviour from the player’s dad before he was barred from the arena for the final game of the tournament, a requirement that the suit claims he ignored.

Eventually, “after repeated sanctions violations by (the father), the Defendants’ son was also sanctioned via an indefinite suspension from Team activities pending a hearing.” After roughly a month, the parents requested their son be released from the team back to their home centre, which was approved Nov. 29, 2023, the suit claims.

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The following day, the parents filed a lawsuit against Nicoll, the Minor Hockey Alliance of Ontario, the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, the Ontario Hockey Federation and Hockey Canada. Their son was also listed as a plaintiff.

The countersuit claims the initial lawsuit sought over $2 million in damages and “falsely claimed that in October 2023, (Nicoll) had committed battery against (the couple’s son) during a team practice, had verbally and emotionally abused their son, that (Nicoll) had deliberately ignored Hockey Canada rules meant to prevent abuse, and that (Nicoll’s) version of events reported to the Executive was defamatory towards (the parents).”

Global News has contacted the lawyer representing the player’s parents but had not received a response as of publication time.

With respect to allegations of battery, the countersuit claims that it was an exaggeration of an incident during a team practice where players were working on looking over their shoulder while receiving the puck. In this case, the countersuit claims that the player didn’t see the coach coming towards him, the player made a sharp turn and then the two collided.

“None of the other players, parents, or the coaching staff raised any concerns about this incident at the time or afterwards,” the countersuit states.

As for allegations that Nicoll did not enforce Hockey Canada rules meant to prevent abuse, the statement of claim says those rules were not yet approved by the Ontario Hockey Foundation at the time of the incidents. “At all times (Nicoll) followed the policies in effect for the league at the time,” the statement reads.

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The countersuit also alleges that the parents made a false claim against Nicoll to the Children’s Aid Society, prompting an investigation. The statement claims Nicoll cooperated fully and the case was closed on Feb. 2 after CAS “found no evidence of physical force/harm.”

Global News has reached out to the Huron-Perth Children’s Aid Society but had not received a response as of publication time. Children’s Aid Society London and Middlesex, meanwhile, said it was unable to provide comment.

The suit says the allegations against Nicoll have “led to the spread of baseless rumours” that “would lower (his) reputation in the eyes of any reasonable person” and that Nicoll has been dealing with depression, anxiety and stress due to the situation.

The countersuit is seeking $1 million for defamation, $40,000 for lost income and $250,000 for aggravated damages.

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