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Penguins face lawsuits, former AHL coach accused of sexual assault

Blue Jackets Penguins Hockey
Keith Srakocic
/
AP
The Pittsburgh Penguins logo at center ice is lit by a spotlight before the start of the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Pittsburgh.

Lawyers for a former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins assistant coach and his wife said Tuesday they plan to file a second lawsuit alleging sexual assault by Clark Donatelli, the former head coach of the hockey team.

The complaint is also expected to name several prominent figures within the Pittsburgh Penguins organization as the forces behind a cover-up of the abuse. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team is the American Hockey League affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Attorneys representing Erin Skalde, wife of assistant coach Jarrod Skalde, claim Donatelli abused her during a team road trip to Providence, Rhode Island, in November 2018. The civil lawsuit will be filed in state court in Rhode Island.

Donatelli resigned from his position in 2019.

The law offices of Chicago-based Romanucci and Blandin released a statement describing the case. In it, they claim the team told Jarrod Skalde not to speak about the alleged abuse. They also claim that Erin was never interviewed as part of the investigation process.

The Penguins argued the complaint was handled appropriately.

“We took this Wilkes-Barre/Scranton incident very seriously and acted immediately. The team investigated and addressed the alleged incident within hours of being notified in June 2019, despite the fact that Mr. Skalde delayed seven months before he reported the incident. Immediately upon receiving the report, a full investigation was conducted within 72 hours, and the former coach resigned from the organization,” a spokesperson for the Penguins organization said in a statement when asked about the planned lawsuit.

The lawsuit also claims Jarrod Skalde was fired as a result of reporting the allegations.

The Penguins deny that claim.

“Following the report, Mr. Skalde continued to coach in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for an additional year, until we made significant staff reductions due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” a spokesperson said.

Romanucci said the complaint will name as defendants the Penguins organization, Clark Donatelli, former WB general manager and current Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin, Penguins co-owners Mario Lemieux and Ronald Burkle, Pittsburgh Penguins LP and Lemieux Group LP.

A similar lawsuit was filed in 2020 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The case remains active. The Associated Press reports a judge on Sept. 30 denied the Penguins' motion for arbitration instead of a jury trial in that case.

In a statement late Tuesday, Romanucci said another woman has retained his firm to represent her in a similar case involving an incident on a different date.

The lawsuits come amid a tense time in the NHL after an investigation into the Chicago Blackhawks’ mishandling of sexual assault allegations 11 years ago found that leadership failed to act on a player’s assault allegations against an assistant coach for three weeks.

Sports network TSN reported last week that the U.S. Center for SafeSport had opened an investigation into Guerin's handling of the situation with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. A spokesman told the AP that SafeSport “does not comment on active matters to protect the integrity of the process.”

Romanucci said he looks forward to his clients’ day in court.

“The time of reckoning has arrived, time to stop the stench of hockey culture putting sports before the sanctity of human decency,” Romanucci said.