One of the more shocking and troubling allegations former NHLer Daniel Carcillo made in his statement of claim for his class action lawsuit against the Canadian Hockey League for abusing teenagers was the following, which is alleged to have occurred in 2002-03 when Carcillo was a rookie with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario League: “The head coach walked in on a naked rookie taped to a table with his buttocks in the air. Older players were whipping him with a belt. The head coach took part, whipped the child and laughed while the boy cried.”
David Pszenyczny was that boy. He was a 17-year-old rookie with the Sting when he showed up for practice one day to discover that he was chosen as the Rookie of the Day, which meant it was his day to be abused by his older teammates. It actually didn’t bother him all that much that his teammates were hitting him with his own belt. He’d grown accustomed to that kind of treatment. “When they did it to me, I was the guy who would say, ‘OK, give me more and do it harder,’ ” Pszenyczny said. “I just didn’t want to give them the satisfaction that they were breaking me.”
What has stuck with him in the almost 18 years that has passed since then was that he alleges the team’s coach, Jeff Perry, took part in the abuse. One teammate that was there said Perry came into the dressing room with the intention of stopping it, but then allegedly was coerced into participating. According to the teammate, he did not hit Pszenyczny as hard as the teammates were hitting him, but it was enough to make him flinch. “The thing that sticks out isn’t what the players did to me, it was more along the lines of the coach,” Pszenyczny said. “That’s what really stuck out to me. I’m just lying on the table taped and I’m thinking, ‘Did that just really happen?’ When you get untaped from that table and you look around at the other rookies, they were just kind of like, ‘Oh, no. That guy is supposed to look out for us.’ ”
TheHockeyNews.com has attempted to speak with Perry multiple times since the lawsuit was filed last Thursday, leaving multiple messages, none of which has been returned. Pszenyczny, meanwhile, is the third member of the 2002-03 Sting to corroborate that everything in Carcillo’s statement of claim is accurate.
On another occasion that season, Pszenyczny said he was excused from practice one day along with a number of the veterans. In the dressing room, the veterans made him strip naked and do push-ups, with his penis being dipped into menthol absorbent with each push-up. “I don’t remember exactly how many they made me do, but it was enough to get it hurting, that’s for sure,” Pszenyczny said. “And then they said, ‘OK, now you have to take the rookies’ clothes, put them in the shower and get them wet, then throw them in the freezer.’ ”
Pszenyczny is 35 years old now and, after a 12-year professional playing career, is the head coach of the Quad City Storm of the Southern Pro League. He actually hopes he can one day coach in the same league in which he played. While he allows his players to hold rookie parties once a year, he has strict rules that the veterans must respect their teammates’ boundaries. Nobody is to be forced to drink, nobody is to be forced to do anything they’re not comfortable doing. “And I tell them to not get arrested,” he said.
One of the worst things about the abuse, Pszenyczny said, is that it created a toxic atmosphere that lasted his entire time in Sarnia. He and Carcillo played two full seasons in Sarnia, then were both traded to the Mississauga IceDogs early in the 2004-05 season. He said it was only when he arrived in Mississauga that he realized what constituted a healthy atmosphere. He said that after his rookie season, the OHL cracked down on rookie hazing, so his group did not do the same things to the incoming new players. “Going through this, you think, ‘OK, I’m earning my stripes and then I’ll be a vet and I’ll get to do this,’ ” Pszenyczny said. “But that’s not right because now I’m allowed to think that’s all right. And the fact the coach took part makes you think that’s totally cool and it isn’t.”
Carcillo has alleged in the lawsuit that the abuse he experienced during his rookie OHL season has left him, “permanently traumatized,” and that he has suffered severe mental health issues that were not present before the abuse he endured. For his part, Pszenyczny said he is, “in a good place,” and is unsure whether or not he’ll add his name to the class. As for any permanent damage, Pszenyczny said he’s not sure of what effect it had on him. “I can’t tell you…maybe my wife could,” he said. “What’s normal? We’re hockey players and we’re not allowed to show emotion.”
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