High school hockey team held racist and homophobic rituals, player alleges

'I was very scared, very uncomfortable,' player says as school officials, police acccused of cover-up


School officials in Massachusetts have worked to shield from public view details of violent, degrading, racist and homophobic hazing rituals held in the high school hockey team's locker room.

One hockey player who was subjected to the abuse said after being interviewed by police and others from Danvers government he is still waiting for accountability.

"When you first walked in and saw this going on, what went through your mind?" WCVB's 5 Investigates asked him.

"I was very, very scared, very uncomfortable, and I wanted to leave very, very, very, very quickly," the player said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

"Were you ever assaulted?" we asked.

"Yes," he replied.

The alleged assaults and other hazing took place, he said, during rituals that took place inside the hockey team's locker room. The rituals were explicitly homophobic, starkly racist, and sometimes violent, according to his account, and always featured abuse of young players by upperclassmen.

For example: every Tuesday was "Gay Tuesday," when the lights were turned off in the locker room and everyone had to take off their clothes.

The player said he was "terrified" by it. "Very, very, very much so. Not what I expected when I signed up to play for the team," he said.

"Was there actually touching of genitals?" 5 Investigates asked.

"Yes," he replied. "There was."

"Intentionally?" we asked.

"Yes, I mean, as intentional as can happen with the lights off," he replied.

"Why was it called gay Tuesday?" Anderson asked.

"The main concept was they were mocking gay people," he said.

And then there were what the team called "Hard-R Fridays."

Players who refused to say a racial slur with a hard "R" were physically beaten, sometimes with a red sex toy, the player said.

"On Friday, I would refuse to say it and get held down by multiple of my friends and beaten," he said. "And then I'd walk around with shame, being heckled for the rest of the night."

He continued, "There were moments where I saw other people get beat and did not move. I didn't do anything. I didn't help them because I was so scared of what it would be like for it to happen to me again that I didn't lash out."

He said the culture of bullying transformed his teammates, who realized if they followed the orders, the beating would stop.

"And then slowly but surely, throughout the weeks, they became the ones who would be holding people down," he said.

At least once, he said, an assistant coach walked in on one of the team's rituals.

"He turned the lights on. Saw everyone naked. One of the captains in the middle of the room, he asked him what's going on and the player said, 'Coach, it's Gay Tuesday,' And the coach says, 'I don't want to know.' He turns the lights back off and he leaves, closes the door," the player said.

The player was interviewed by school and police officials as well as an independent investigator hired by the town. His statements were witnessed by other adults.

There were ultimately three separate investigations into hazing, bullying, homophobia and racism. But those reports, provided by the town and police department to 5 Investigates, though, are almost entirely blacked out, and therefore unreadable and useless to the public.

"It's really astonishing that they felt that the best option was to just try to cover it up and it'll go away," the player said. "But it won't go away."

According to an unredacted portion of the police report, police found no evidence of criminal misconduct.

The head hockey coach, Steve Baldassare, who was also the school resource police officer, was placed on leave in January of 2021, then reinstated in February. In July, he resigned. He and the assistant coaches denied any knowledge of misconduct to investigators. Baldassare did not return our call.

The independent investigation concluded, "there was a culture of bullying" and "misconduct on the team," but all description of that misconduct was redacted.

The Danvers school superintendent said the school department "addressed personnel and student discipline" and "implemented training."

But the town still refuses to tell the community the details of the allegations.

"I feel like the people who should be accountable are not accountable. That's not the kids," the player said. He said he does not blame the players. He actually said he sees them as victims.

"The adults are the people who have been given the power, they're the ones who are paid to monitor this type of thing," he said. "Their whole job is to make sure that these kids act a certain way, and they really dropped the ball."

After his police interview, the player said the same officer returned to his home unannounced and asked if he wanted to file criminal charges. He told him no, he said, because he viewed the players as victims.