Student kicked off Panther men’s hockey team sues college

MIDDLEBURY — James “Jak” Knelman, formerly a junior forward on the Middlebury College hockey team, on Wednesday sued the college and hockey coach Bill Beaney as a result of Knelman’s dismissal from the Middlebury hockey team in January.
The suit, which seeks damages in excess of $75,000, alleges that Knelman was wrongly dismissed from the team after the night of Jan. 15. A press release sent out by a public relations firm representing Knelman said he was kicked off the team after he left an alumni hockey banquet that night shortly before it ended to spend time with his father, who was visiting for the weekend.
The suit alleges that Coach Beaney subsequently berated Knelman in front of the entire hockey team, then suspended, and later dismissed, Knelman from the team.
Middlebury College spokeswoman Sarah Ray said the college will answer the specifics of Knelman’s complaint in due course.
“As with most lawsuits, there’s more to the story than has been presented by one side’s attorney,” she said in an email.
“Middlebury values its student-athletes, the successes they have achieved in academics and sports, and the coaches who provide their teams with leadership and support,” Ray added.
Knelman’s press release says he was a top-rated forward during his high school hockey career at The Academy of Holy Angels in suburban Minneapolis, Minn. Following graduation, he spent two seasons with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League, where he was an assistant captain. The release said Knelman was recruited by a number of schools and chose to attend Middlebury, for whom he played in both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.
Knelman’s suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Burlington, seeks recovery of damages and equitable relief to remedy breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, breach of fiduciary duties and defamation in conjunction with his dismissal from the team.
Specifically, the suit says Middlebury “breached its contract with Knelman by failing to ensure that Coach Beaney treated Knelman fairly, ethically, with integrity and in good faith; by permitting Coach Beaney to arbitrarily and capriciously dismiss him from the Middlebury hockey team; and failing to adhere to NCAA Division III’s requirement that Middlebury assure that the actions of its coaches and administrators exhibit fairness and honesty in their relationships with student athletes.”
Knelman said in his press release that he chose to attend Middlebury to further his ambitions of becoming a professional hockey player and to take advantage of the school’s strong Environmental Studies program, in which he has earned honors as a member of the dean’s list and as a College Scholar.

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