The Boston Globe provided the following account of the incident in February 2014, as told by McCloskey and purportedly backed up by other members of the UNH Wildcats women's hockey team:
By McCloskey’s account — echoed by the player who declined to be named — the altercation quickly followed Breedlove’s exit from the ice to the bench. McCloskey had been shouting instructions, correcting mistakes Breedlove made on her shift, as she skated toward the bench. When she hopped over the boards and into the bench area, he said, she glanced his way, then turned her back on him to face the ice.
McCloskey saw this as a continuation of "communication issues" he had talked about with her repeatedly her freshman and sophomore seasons.
McCloskey leaned forward, foot propped on the bench, and Breedlove, by his account, "exploded" in anger, unleashed a string of expletives, then turned back toward the ice. McCloskey said he grabbed Breedlove around the shoulder by her sweater, then "pulled her back to a seated position, because I wanted to be face-to face.’’
" ‘Don’t you ever [expletive] talk to me that way again. Do you hear me?,’ ’’ he said he recalls saying. Then, he said, he let go. She played the remainder of the game and dressed for the following day’s rematch.
However, an ABC news report a year later (February 2015) tells the story differently, stating that McCloskey admitted to causing the player to hit her head on the bench, putting his knee on her hip, and grabbing her face mask in addition to grabbing her jersey and pulling her down:
The Strafford County Attorney's Office said Brian McCloskey admitted that the player's version of events was true. He will no longer face assault and criminal threatening charges if he completes a diversion program that includes counseling, community service and good behavior.
Officials said McCloskey admitted that during a game on Nov. 30, 2013, he grabbed a player by her jersey, pulled her and caused her to hit her head on a bench. He also admitted putting his knee on top of her hip after she fell and holding her facemask with his hand.
According to Today's Slapshot, McCloskey is currently serving a diversion program in order to have the charges dropped, though originally the Blades informed TSS that the program was already completed.
GM Krista Patronick:
I have every confidence in Coach McCloskey's ability to continue our winning tradition in Boston. The incident at UNH was very serious and marred an otherwise exceptional coaching career. We have a zero tolerance policy at the CWHL, but at the same time we believe in the value of second chances. Brian has learned from this mistake and is ready to bring his vision for a first-class professional women's hockey program to the Boston Blades.
I had a tremendous career at the University of New Hampshire. It did not end the way I envisioned but I learned from it, and I'm excited to move forward and take on this new challenge.
CWHL Commissioner Brenda Andress:
I fully support Krista’s selection of Coach McCloskey and believe that he will contribute to the ongoing success of the Boston Blades. The incident that led to his departure from the University of New Hampshire was very serious and was given careful consideration during our recruiting process. We maintain a zero tolerance policy at the CWHL but at the same time we believe in the importance of second chances. I am confident that Brian has learned from this mistake and will make an exceptional contribution to our league.
It's true: the incident does sound like it could have been very serious and problematic, and physical assault is to be taken very seriously, especially when coming from a male authority figure to a female subordinate. This fortunately doesn't seem to be part of a pattern on McCloskey's part, and statements from his players indicate that the incident was not gendered or sexual in nature.
Personally, I'm not certain how to view a situation like this. I'm not accustomed to physical altercation. If I were at work or playing a game, even in a highly demanding physical setting, and someone chose to correct me by physically grabbing me, I would be appalled and startled, especially if it led to me hitting my head or otherwise being injured, and even if what caused my injury was accidental. Especially if it came from a superior or coach.
If McCloskey has the respect of his team and respects them in turn, then the second chance narrative will be all well and good. We don't know how the victim feels in this situation, nor did she want us to, since she has repeatedly declined to be interviewed for reports on this incident. That's her right.
However, it's an appropriate time to remember that a great deal of physical assault incidents are not misunderstandings, one-time mistakes, or accidents. Some might be, but many aren't.
Promoting a society that encourages accountability is very important in terms of being able to reliably make that distinction. I wish the Blades and McCloskey all the best, but I also know that society isn't there yet, so it saddens me to have to parse my commentary with this story so delicately. Be good to each other out there, folks. And call that shit out.