Home » Foglietta twins » Emotional Abuse: Youth Hockey's Dirty Little Secret

Emotional Abuse: Youth Hockey's Dirty Little Secret

Does failure of USA Hockey to lead on issue put kids at risk?

Procedural wrangling

Two days later, on Friday, February 3, 2012, Lynn Youth Hockey began covering its tracks. After apparently learning from MassHockey that it needed to conduct a hearing before kicking the family out of the program, the LYH board president notified Holly that a hearing, after-the-fact, would take place on Wednesday, February 8th, just five days later. When Holly responded that the scheduled date was inconvenient because her husband - a fireman - had a shift that day and she wanted to be sure her attorney could attend,  she was told the attorney could not attend.

Holly responded with a blistering e-mail insisting that the family's attorney would attend, that LYH had expelled her sons in violation of MassHockey rules requiring a hearing before any disciplinary action was taken, asked to be advised as to the exact rule the twins had violated which led LYH's unilateral decision to kick them off their team and expel the family from Lynn Youth Hockey, and asked for the names of the individuals who would be serving on the Disciplinary Committee. She said that Austin and William would be at their respective Saturday games, and that she expected that they would be allowed to practice and play as usual and treated courteously and fairly by Coach Norcross. She also demanded that a separate hearing be held in accordance with MassHockey rules to consider discipline of Coach Norcross for alleged violations of the Coach's Code of Ethics in the way he treated Austin and William.

In an email later that night LYH offered either Monday, February 6 or Friday, February 10 as hearing dates, but not only continued to insist that a hearing would not be held if the Fogliettas' attorney was present, but that, "as of now, the Board decision stands, and until we have a hearing, your sons will not be able to play. You have made a serious accusation against a coach regarding your sons, which was not corroborated. I repeat, you are the one who made the accusation." Conspicuously absent from the e-mail was a response to any of Holly's other demands.

Holly responded that evening that the February 10th was okay for the hearing, and added the following postscript:

Only reason my accusations were not corroborated was because you never interviewed any parents except for assistant coaches and we were never allowed a hearing.... Be fair here... But then again ... judging by the way you dismissed my boys ... nothing seems quite fair in the eyes of the children .... sad that the morale of the Squirt A team is pretty evident when children are texting my boys with their support and sadness ... maybe them not winning a game since this happened is a good indication as to the feelings of the kids right now on the team ... but I forgot .. it isn't about the kids playing the game .. it is about the men behind the bench.

Two days later, on Tuesday, February 6, 2012, Holly e-mailed LYH again (this time including MassHockey and, for the first time, reporters at the Daily Item among the recipients), expressing dismay at the fact that her sons had already been replaced on their team's roster with two players moved up from the Squirt B squad, suggesting that the upcoming hearing was "just to go through the motions" now that MassHockey had told the board that it needed to conduct a hearing, expressing concern that they wouldn't be "listening to my husband and myself or my children about the [alleged] emotional and physical abuse" she claimed they had suffered at the hands of Coach Norcross, and that "it all seems quite evident that our claims will not be looked at subjectively [sic] even though we have parents and children [who] can support our claims (even text messages from the other assistant coach [who] was present that tells us that Coach Norcross was in a "DARK PLACE" that morning in the locker room). At this point if we can't bring our attorney ... why have a hearing? I really hope that when you get other complaints regarding this coach you don't just sweep them under the carpet like this one!"

Two hours later, after MassHockey had advised LYH that the Fogliettas were entitled to have their lawyer present at the hearing, and learning that her sons were entitled to participate with their team - a fact that Attorney Brown of MassHockey said in an e-mail to Holly he had made "very clear" to the LYH Board president, Holly sent LYH another e-mail (copy to Brown) in which she "wondered how William and Austin will get a fair hearing on this matter at this point" when it appeared that their names were removed from the team roster on the LYH website "almost immediately after" she complained about Coach Norcross's behavior. She said it "was heart breaking to my boys because they still don't know what they did [wrong]." She also wondered whether the committee appointed for the hearing would be objective if it included the Board president and two board members who, she claimed, had already made up their mind by announcing to both the Squirt A and B teams the previous weekend that her sons were being replaced. She closed by observing that it was a "sad situation that literally could have been resolved with a conversation that day to which the coach refused repeated requests. When we felt we had no recourse, we sought the Board's assistance." She wondered whether "anyone consider[ed] the effect on my boys and their emotional state after the game that day?"

LYH soon backed off of its insistence that the Fogliettas' lawyer not attend the hearing, but continued to insist that "no decision ha[d] been made to move players up to the Squirt A team", which prompted an e-mail from Holly suggesting that perhaps the Board president, because he wasn't at the games the previous weekend, should speak to the parents of both A and B teams, because it was her understanding that they were told that two players, who she identified by name, had played their last game with the B team and were moving to the A team. In defiance of clear instructions from MassHockey's Brown to the LYH Board president that the Foglietta twins be allowed to participate with their team at Thursday's practice and Saturday game pending the hearing, the Board president advised the family that the "board's decision stands until we have the hearings, and the hearing decision is made."

In response to Holly's follow-up e-mail in which she asked whether that meant that, if her boys came to practice on Thursday they wouldn't be allowed to practice "even though Attorney Brown made it perfectly clear that they are able to play/participate," and renewing her request for the names of those appointed to the discipline committee, which the MassHockey disciplinary rules stated needed to be "reasonably independent and objective" and provided to the parties along with notice of the hearing, the Board president said "there will be no reversal, or discussions regarding a reversal of the board decision to terminate until the hearings" and that he would e-mail the names of those who would be on the panel when Holly confirmed that Friday would be the hearing date.

Stacked deck

The next day, February 7, 2012, the Fogliettas were advised that the issue to be presented to the disciplinary committee was whether "Holly Foglietta's conduct warranted the terminated of the Foglietta's [sic] from Lynn Youth Hockey" but did not specify what rule or policy she was alleged to have violated. They discipline committee, they were told, would consist of the board president and three board members, all of whom had participated in the decision to terminate the club's relationship with the Foglietta family (later re-characterized as a "suspension" pending hearing).

Contacted by the Daily Item for its article published on February 10, 2012, the day of the hearing, two of the three board members slated to conduct the hearing made it clear that they had already decided where they stood on the matter, not only offering their support for Norcross, but directly speaking out against Holly. One was not only a LYH board member, but a parent whose son played on the team and a close friend of Norcross. Another had allegedly sent a text to Bill Foglietta telling him in no uncertain terms to never text, e-mail or talk to him again, and whose wife, interviewed by the newspaper, not only said she did not hear any yelling or screaming, but spun Austin's refusal to join his brother in the locker room after the game as stemming, not from being yelled at and emotionally abused by the coach in front of his teammates on the bench, as he had told his parents, but because he was "embarrassed because the game was stopped so he could get his puck." She laid blame for the entire incident at Holly's doorstep, charging her of making "serious and untrue accusations" and of starting the problem in the first place by complaining about one of her sons having to play defense (an indication that the coaches had shared with her, or at least told her, about the exchange of e-mails between Holly and the coaching staff in October 2011).

At 11:35 a.m. on the morning of February 10, 2012, just a little over seven hours before the disciplinary hearing was scheduled to begin, Holly was notified that one of the Board members on the discipline committee (the one who had allegedly sent text messages to Bill Foglietta instructing him not to ever contact him again), would be replaced by a coach who was represented to be a Bantam coach with no children in the program, but who was not listed anywhere on the LYH coaches list.

At 3:06 p.m., with the hearing scheduled to begin in less than four hours, a fourth member was added to the panel, a man who, according to Holly, shared practice ice time every week with Coach Norcross and was friendly with him and the other Squirt A coaches.

Then, shortly before the hearing began, the last member of the original disciplinary committee, Steve Patrie, the LYH Vice President and a parent of a player on the Squirts A team, recused himself.

At the hearing, the hastily-reconstituted panel heard from Bill Foglietta and his two sons. After the hearing, the Fogliettas' attorney, Gary Zerola of Boston, told the Daily Item that he didn't hold out much hope that the twins would be reinstated: "I find it very hard to believe that they're going to overrule the board of the organization that they're all supporting or working for."

Zerola also said he objected to the very premise of the hearing. "It should not be Holly Foglietta's conduct but Coach Bill Norcross' conduct. They want to make this about Holly. Holly made a complaint to Lynn Youth Hockey. All she did was repeat what her son told her. When you have a young man who makes an allegation of abuse, verbal or physical ... what you do by punishing the kid is that you chill every kid's possibility of reporting potential abuse. The age we live in is tell, tell, tell." "I miss my friends," William admitted to the paper. "But the coaches were mean."