Details Emerge in North Dakota Drinking Scandal

Stephen J. Lee of the Grand Forks Herald has done a pretty solid job of reconstructing the events of a Saturday September 15th party that led to multiple cases of alcohol poisoning among freshmen hockey players on the North Dakota hockey team, and caused the suspension of seven different players for their connection to the party.

Around 8pm the evening of the incident, a resident assistant at UND's Walsh noticed a group of intoxicated hockey players, unable to walk on their own, being carried to their rooms by teammates. Despite being told that the situation was "taken care of" by the players carrying their incoherent teammates, the RA phoned 911 for assistance.

The state the responding officer found the four freshmen hockey players in was not a pretty one:

Gothberg, who had a strong odor of alcohol, was passed out face down on the floor and Chyzyk was lying on the futon.

Sevigny shook Gothberg, and he responded, but Chyzyk did not, even though she "shook him, tapped his face and spoke to him," Sevigny said.

He had vomit on the front of his shirt.

"While I was trying to wake Chyzyk, someone mentioned that he had taken a lot of shots that night," she said. "I then used a pressure point behind his right ear, Chyzyk started to move and I asked Chyzyk to speak with me. Chyzyk then mumbled he’s sleeping and swung his arm at me."

He finally sat up and told Sevigny he was fine but had "consumed about a half bottle of straight vodka," she said.

Altru paramedics showed up, checked Gothberg and determined he "would be fine to stay in his room," she said.

Chyzyk needed someone to watch him all night, the paramedics said, and his girlfriend told them she would keep an eye on both Chyzyk and Gothberg.

Caggiula meanwhile, was taken to Altru Hospital for possible alcohol poisoning, Sevigny said.

...

Garfield then told Sevigny they still were missing one of the freshmen carried into the dorm, Jordan Schmaltz, who apparently wasn’t in his room, 102B, where Chyzyk and Gothberg were found. After looking elsewhere, police learned Schmaltz had locked himself in the bathroom in 102B while Sevigny and paramedics were checking on Gothberg and Chyzyk.

Sevigny said by now she found Schmaltz passed out in his bed. She shook him, tried to wake him, but "Schmaltz had his eyes partially open and was unable to answer my questions."

Paramedics checked him out.

In slurred speech, he declined to go to Altru. A paramedic said he needed someone watching him overnight, and Chyzyk’s girlfriend said she could do it, since she was going to be watching the other two players in the same room.

It goes without saying that drinking to the point of that condition comes with dangerously high risks. All four are tremendously talented hockey players, with Gothberg and Schmaltz being very high NHL draft picks, and that was put in very serious jeopardy on September 15th. Also, for their troubles, all four players will appear in court on October 30th to face underage drinking charges.

Junior defenseman Derek Forbort claimed what happened wasn't part of a team initiation. But the fact that it was four new members of the team, in the state they were in, that early in the evening highly suggests that their drinking was far more organized than a casual social gathering that got slightly out of hand.

North Dakota is a state that has hazing laws on the books. Here is the official law:

North Dakota Code > Title 12.1 > Chapter 12.1-17 > § 12.1-17-10 - Hazing - Penalty

Current as of: 2009

A person is guilty of an offense when, in the course of another person's initiation into or affiliation with any organization, the person willfully engages in conduct that creates a substantial risk of physical injury to that other person or a third person. As used in this section, "conduct" means any treatment or forced physical activity that is likely to adversely affect the physical health or safety of that other person or a third person, or which subjects that other person or third person to extreme mental stress, and may include extended deprivation of sleep or rest or extended isolation, whipping, beating, branding, forced calisthenics, overexposure to the weather, and forced consumption of any food, liquor, beverage, drug, or other substance. The offense is a class A misdemeanor if the actor's conduct causes physical injury, otherwise the offense is a class B misdemeanor.

The key phrases in there would seem to be "substantial risk of physical injury" and "forced consumption of...liquor" The Grand Forks Herald story makes it pretty hard to argue either of those two points.

So far, we've seen seven players receive single game suspensions, but with the recent revelations in this story, it seems unlikely that this matter is closed.

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