Warning: This article contains quotes detailing sexual assault.
When Minnesota Wild general manager Bill Guerin was in charge of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins as the Pittsburgh assistant general manager, he allegedly told an assistant coach to stay quiet about Clark Donatelli, then the AHL Penguins head coach, sexually assaulting his wife during a road trip.
Per TSN’s Rick Westhead, Jarrod Skalde, the now-former assistant coach with the AHL Penguins, filed a lawsuit on Nov. 3 that detailed the alleged sexual assault during a Nov. 2018 road trip in Providence, R.I.
The allegations have not been proven, and a lawyer representing the Penguins franchise has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Within the lawsuit, Skalde allegedly approached Guerin several months after the assault took place and was told to keep quiet. He then claims that the Penguins broke Pennsylvania’s whistleblower laws when the team fired him on May 5 of this year, because he brought the issue to the team’s attention and was turned away.
Within Westhead’s report, he quotes the lawsuit that goes into detail about the events of that night on the road trip.
“Mrs. Skalde tried to fight off his sexual advances and told him to stop, but to no avail, as Mr. Donatelli escalated his attack, including reaching his hands into Mrs. Skalde’s shirt and repeatedly touching her breasts,” the lawsuit alleges.
Skalde returned to his wife and Donatelli a few minutes later and they took a car-ride service back to the hotel. Donatelli insisted that he sit in the back seat with Erin for the ride, and that Skalde sit in the front.
“Still in shock and uncertain what to do in response to her husband’s boss sexually assaulting her, Mrs. Skalde fearfully entered the back seat of the car, trying to put as much distance between herself and Mr. Donatelli as she could, to avoid him again sexually touching her,” the lawsuit says.
“Mr. Donatelli resumed his sexual assault and battery of Mrs. Skalde once he had her in the darkness of the backseat. He not only groped her breasts again, but also forced his hands down her pants and touched her vagina, despite her efforts to push him away… Only later did Mr. Skalde find out what happened to his wife that night, shaking him to the core to learn that he had sat unknowingly in the front seat as his boss has sexually assaulted his wife.”
Guerin declined to comment when approached by Westhead about the lawsuit.
The lawsuit goes into greater detail into why the Skaldes did not disclose the event to the Penguins within the 180 days that is required for his dismissal to go under the state’s whistleblower laws.
“They had never experienced such an attack and were unsure what to do...The Skaldes also were concerned that reporting the conduct could lead to retaliation and create a crisis for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the middle of the season, causing harm to the team and its players through no fault of the Skaldes.”
After the Nov. 2018 assault, Skalde let Guerin know of the event during the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver, on June 21 of that year. Four days later, the former assistant coach met with a lawyer representing the Penguins to discuss the assault. On June 28 — seven days after the assault was reported to team officials — Donatelli had resigned for personal reasons, according to the team.
Westhead details the events following Donatelli’s resignation in more detail:
“Guerin later advised Mr. Skalde that the Penguins were terminating Mr. Donatelli’s employment, but instructed [Jarrod] that knowledge of the incident and termination had to be suppressed, cautioning that it ‘has to stay quiet and can’t be let out,’” the lawsuit says.
As the 2019-20 AHL season began, the Penguins stripped Skalde of his duties coaching the power-play units, he said, and eight months later, on May 5, 2020, Skalde says the Penguins fired him, telling him his job was being eliminated because of COVID-19-related cutbacks.
“Of the 21 employees handling hockey operations for the Penguins, team management selected only Mr. Skalde for termination – and told him it had nothing to do with his performance, which was ‘great,’” the lawsuit says. “But of course, Mr. Skalde also happened to be the only one who had complained about the unlawful sexual assault and battery of his wife by a Penguins coach.”
The lawsuit goes into further detail about Donatelli’s past as a well-known harasser, making several sexual advances through his tenure with the AHL Penguins, but they were tolerated because he was able to coach well, putting women employees at risk.
As reported, Guerin’s participation in this case — mainly telling Skalde to keep the assault out of the public eye, to let it get handled internally while the team protected Donatelli — should be recognized by the Wild organization in the coming days. If not, it sends the wrong message across hockey and the culture of trying to cover up these events unfortunately grows.
Update, Dec. 8, 9:29 p.m.:
In the wake of the report, within hours the Wild and GM Bill Guerin issued statements, regarding the lawsuit and alleged assault.
“When I learned of these allegations,” Guerin said in his statement, “I promptly brought them to Pittsburgh Penguins senior management. The allegations were quickly investigated. I emphatically deny anything to the contrary.”
The timeline detailed in the initial report backs up the Wild general manager’s statement, as it took four days for Skalde to meet with team lawyers after reporting the incident to Guerin.
For the Wild, they stress the fact that this is still an active legal matter and making any hard statement would only hurt.
“The Minnesota Wild has discussed this matter with Bill Guerin and fully supports him,” team spokesman Aaron Sickman told media on Tuesday. “As this is a matter of active litigation, we will have no further comment.”
This is a developing story, stay tuned for updates.