Last week he was a rising star on Canada’s junior water polo team with dreams of making it to the Olympics. Now Nathan Kotylak is an emotional teenager whose world has been rocked by the consequences of his role in the Stanley Cup riots.
Kotylak apologized on Sunday saying his actions last Wednesday were “dumb” and he was ready to take responsibility for what occurred.
“For reasons I can’t really explain, I went from being a spectator to becoming part of the mob mentality that swept through many members of the crowd,” the 17-year-old from Maple Ridge, B.C. said in a statement provided by his lawyer.
“I want to say as clearly as I can that there is no excuse for my behaviour.”
Kotylak turned himself in to police after social media sites posted pictures showing a youth stuffing a burning rag into the gas tank of a police car in the raucous aftermath of the Canucks’ Stanley Cup loss to the Boston Bruins.
He is currently under investigation and has also been suspended from the national junior men’s water polo team.
The teenager—who has since been the target of those furious with the post-game violence—said he went to Vancouver to join the thousands who were hoping to be part of a Stanley Cup celebration, but things went awry.
“After the game some people in the crowd started to get out of control, and at that moment I made some very bad decisions, ones that I now have to live up to.”
Kotylak’s lawyer obtained a court order allowing the 17-year-old, who would typically remain unidentified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, to make his public apology.
In the page-and-a-half-long statement, Kotylak said he asked his father to allow him to have his name revealed because he was “truly ashamed” of what he did.
“It does not reflect the values that my family and community raised me to live by,” he said.
“I’m not looking for any sympathy, I just want to make sure that people know that there have already been serious consequences, and I anticipate there will be more.”
Kotylak chose not to attend his high school convocation last week and apologized to his teachers and peers saying his actions were not a representation of who he wants to be.
He also urged others involved in Wednesday’s rioting to take responsibility for their actions and own up to their misdeeds. In addition, he apologized to the Vancouver Canucks, the city and the police.
Lawyer Bart Findlay, who represents Kotylak, told The Canadian Press the teenager’s decision to speak openly showed he was a “very brave young man” who was accepting responsibility for his actions.
“He is a good kid who got caught up in the moment and made some bad choices,” Findlay said. “It’s actually refreshing to see somebody as brave as him to step forward, accept responsibility and man up in the way that he has.”
Kotylak also said he was sorry on Facebook.
“I apologize for the damage I’ve caused,” he said on his page which carried a picture of him posing in a pool with a polo ball.
The one-line statement prompted a barrage of largely negative comments on his actions.
The online venom reached a point where Kotylak’s father, who is a doctor in Maple Ridge, suspended his medical practice and the family made a decision to leave their home temporarily, said Findlay.
“The family has been concerned for their safety,” he said. “It’s kind of odd because we see the mob mentality that’s been shown on TV through the riot, we’re experiencing very much the same thing online.”
Vancouver police were unable to comment on any potential case against Kotylak as his age would prevent police from identifying him under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
“The fact that some people, youth included, are choosing to self-identify is something out of our control and not something we can speak to,” said spokesman Lindsey Houghton.
Water Polo Canada also chose not to name the player it had suspended, but said the junior member had promised full co-operation with the disciplinary process.
“We’re taking immediate action due to the very serious nature of these allegations,” Ahmed El-Awadi, executive director of the organization said in a release issued late Friday.
“His future status will be determined after an investigation has been completed and an official hearing has been conducted,” said El-Awadi, adding that any criminal proceedings would take precedence over the internal administrative process.
Water Polo Canada manages Canada’s National and Olympic teams for the sport.