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Sexual misconduct allegations haunt former assistant coach's tenure with Gophers hockey program

The University of Minnesota has launched an investigation into Thomas "Chico" Adrahtas, who went to the University of Minnesota hockey program unexpectedly in the summer of 1984 and left abruptly less than a year later amid charges of improper behavior with players. The head coach and players from that era have few nice things to say about Adrahtas' brief time with the Gophers.

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Thomas "Chico" Adrahtas, shown here coaching the club hockey team at Robert Morris University in Illinois two years ago, was a Minnesota Gophers assistant coach in the 1984-85 season. He has been accused of inappropriate behavior with players in Minnesota and Illinois. Robert Morris University photo.
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MINNEAPOLIS — In the early 2000s, while coaching a Colorado youth hockey team in a tournament in Chicago, Brad Buetow saw a familiar face on the other team’s bench coaching Team Illinois. Nearly two decades after they had worked together for one season at the University of Minnesota, Buetow came face-to-face with Thomas “Chico” Adrahtas.

It was not a friendly reunion.

“I had no idea who their coach was before the game, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have played them,” Buetow said in a recent phone interview with The Rink Live. “After the game, we lined up to shake hands and I wouldn’t shake his hand. I yelled at him and said, ‘you shouldn’t even be coaching.’ I was pretty upset.”

At the start of the 1984-85 college hockey season, which would be Buetow’s sixth and final campaign as head coach of the University of Minnesota men’s team, he had hired Adrahtas as an assistant coach. The Gophers won 31 games, finished second in the WCHA and made the NCAA tournament that season. But by the summer of 1985, neither Adrahtas nor Buetow would have a job with the Gophers hockey program, and both had left the state.

Adrahtas, 64, has been accused by numerous former players of using his position to coerce them into oral sex while being bound and blindfolded, as detailed in a recent article in The Athletic . The University of Minnesota has launched an investigation into Adrahtas’ time at the school, with a law firm available to receive confidential tips about any improper behavior that the assistant coach may have engaged in during his brief time in the Twin Cities. The school has also made resources available to possible victims of Adrahtas.

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“When you read the article, it made you sick. Our university is doing what it has to do. This is something that happened when I was in college ... at St. Cloud State. So, a long time ago,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said last week, in his only public comments on the story. “It’s something that you just never think happens, and once again, if it did happen, that’s a sad story. That’s how it makes you feel, and our university is doing the right thing when they jumped on it.”

Thirty-five years later, Buetow’s former Gophers players recall that Adrahtas’ arrival in Minneapolis in 1984 seemed puzzling at the time. By the time Buetow’s contract was not renewed at the end of that season, despite winning nearly 70% of the games he coached, there was a clear sense that something improper and possibly illegal was afoot.

“We had no idea who he was or what his background was. It really seemed to us like a wild card hire,” said Mike Guentzel, who was a senior and the team captain in 1984-85. “But I trusted Brad that he was going to hire somebody that was going to help us.”

Buetow recalls unexpectedly losing one of his assistant coaches late in the summer of 1984, and scrambling to find someone who could work with the Gophers' goalies. Hence Adrahtas’ arrival from Illinois.

“I vetted him as best I could. A very, very good friend of mine and a respected hockey man that was the athletic director and coach at the College of DuPage recommended him. They had won several national junior college national championships,” Buetow recalled. “It was a quick hire because one of my assistants came down with health problems and couldn’t work that year and it was very late in the summer. I wanted to get a goalie guy and this guy was highly recommended.

"I interviewed (Adrahtas), talked to him, checked every aspect I could on him and it was all clean. And he knew his hockey. He was a very knowledgeable hockey coach. I had no idea about any of the other stuff or I would’ve reported him to the authorities immediately. Anybody should.”

The timeline is unclear on when the alleged “other stuff” began, but interviews with players from that Gophers team and players who knew Adrahtas after he left Minnesota reveal a recurring pattern. He would allegedly befriend players, then offer them time alone with what Adrahtas claimed was a woman who enjoyed performing oral sex. The caveat was that the players needed to be bound to a bed and blindfolded in order to receive the sex act.

Multiple Gophers participated at Adrahtas’ urging. More than one Gophers player from that team told The Rink Live recently that once this story got out during the season, there were suspicions that all was not as Adrahtas claimed.

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“This guy basically sought out players that were vulnerable, not in the lineup every night,” said Guentzel, who was a Gophers assistant coach for more than two decades, under both Doug Woog and Don Lucia, and now scouts for the Arizona Coyotes. “I just can’t imagine someone going to that level, trying to figure out which guys are vulnerable and then attacking those guys, and then the guys finding out after the fact. And I have no doubt that they found out that this was an assistant coach performing this act. It’s awful.”

The Rink Live left messages for Adrahtas at his two most recent phone numbers this week. He did not reply. Guentzel said that Adrahtas’ victims should not have their trauma revisited.

“I read (The Athletic) article and it spooked me. This is 35 years later and all of a sudden somebody has a shovel out, digging this stuff up,” Guentzel said. “I certainly have very little interest at this point in talking to any law firm that the university is hiring. I lived it, and if my teammates and my friends — and they are my friends — were involved and they don’t want their names out there, I don’t want them to have to relive this whole damn thing.”

Buetow went on to two more college hockey head coach jobs, first at U.S. International University in Southern California, then at Colorado College. He was dismissed by CC in 1993 and replaced by Lucia. Now retired and living in Colorado, Buetow recalls that he was let go by U of M athletic director Paul Giel shortly after his final Gophers team’s season ended, and said he did not learn of Adrahtas’ alleged improprieties until later.

“Giel came in the next week and said that (former Gophers coach Herb Brooks) wanted the job back, so he didn’t renew my contract,” Buetow said. “Four days later, I was offered and took the USIU job, so I was permanently out in San Diego from mid-March on. Apparently this all went down with Chico in April sometime. If I would’ve known he did anything or had suspicions, I would’ve reported it, certainly.”

Buetow’s final game as coach of the Gophers was on March 23, 1985. Per a story in the Los Angeles Times, USIU did not officially announce his hiring until two months later, on May 23, but Buetow said he had agreed to take the job just a few days after his dismissal from the U of M and spent the next several weeks in San Diego and on the road recruiting players for his new team. Brooks did not take the Gophers job, and after being turned down by Minnesota Duluth coach Mike Sertich, the U of M hired Woog.

Per the story by Katie Strang in The Athletic, Adrahtas left the program and the state abruptly after a few Gophers players presented Giel with the story of the assistant coach’s alleged sexual improprieties.

“Chico called me when I was in northern Minnesota in the summer to tell me he was resigning,” Guentzel recalled. “I said 'why?,' and he said ‘there will be information coming out, I want you to know it’s not true, but it’s just better that I leave the program now.’ I don’t think a large percentage of the guys knew this was going on. It might have been only the victims that really knew.”

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Some believe that Adrahtas was making a push to be the new Gophers’ head coach prior to the players’ revelations to Giel. Multiple sources told The Rink Live that Adrahtas drafted a letter calling for Buetow to be removed. He asked the team’s leaders to sign it and deliver the letter to Giel. They refused to do so.

“I found out later that Chico really undermined me,” Buetow said — a notion that players from that team like leading scorer Pat Micheletti confirmed. “Not in these other sexual things, but he was going to players and saying negative things. I think he thought he was going to be able to take over the job.”

Not everyone feels Adrahtas was ever seriously in the running to coach the team post-Buetow’s departure.

“If Chico was dumb enough to think he was going to be the next University of Minnesota coach, then he was an idiot,” Guentzel said.

Adrahtas, who now lives in Florida, denied sexual abuse of any players when Strang contacted him for The Athletic story. Buetow said he had not seen or spoken to Adrahtas before or after that chance meeting at a youth hockey tournament nearly 20 years ago, and maintains that he was unaware of any inappropriate contact with players during the 1984-85 season.

“I had heard about that after I was gone, just some vague things. I never heard anything factual or exact names or exact dates, just a couple tidbits of things,” Buetow said. “I was surprised that USA Hockey let him coach. I know they suspended him, but he was still coaching for a long time.”

Illinois’ amateur hockey governing body suspended Adrahtas in 2010, and USA Hockey suspended him in 2018. It is not known what will come of the university’s investigation, which is being handled by the law firm Perkins Coie, and whether criminal charges or other legal action will be pursued against Adrahtas.

"Until Perkins Coie has completed its review and assessment of the facts, the university will not be providing updates on that work. That includes specifics on who may be engaging the university or Perkins Coie in this case. The university needs to respect the privacy of any impacted former students and also abide by the university's privacy and confidentiality obligations," said a spokesman from the U of M president's office on Monday, in a statement to The Rink Live. "We are not in a position to speculate about any future legal actions related to this case, particularly given the University only recently became aware of these allegations and engaged with Perkins Coie to collect facts about the case."

Some have claimed that Buetow, and the university, bear some responsibility for hiring Adrahtas in the first place — something that the former coach strongly denies.

“It frustrates me that people might tie me into it, but I was long gone,” Buetow said. “I was clean on everything. I was sad to hear that all of this went down. I don’t feel responsible in any way. It’s just, I was frustrated that people tie me in. I had been let go. I was 2,000 miles away.”

Per a statement from the University of Minnesota president’s office, anyone who may have information relevant to Adrahtas’ activities is encouraged to contact the Perkins Coie law firm at minn@perkinscoie.com, which is a dedicated email address for confidential reporting. Additional support resources are available through the university at https://eoaa.umn.edu/resources , and support resources for victims and survivors are available through the Aurora Center at http://aurora.umn.edu/ .

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Brad Buetow coached the Gophers for six seasons, then coached at U.S. International and Colorado College. File photo.

Related Topics: HOCKEYTHE RINK LIVE
Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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