Jan. 18—BEVERLY — Greg Fonzi, the Beverly High School boys hockey head coach who was involved in an on-ice altercation with a Danvers High assistant hockey coach following Monday's game between the two schools, formally resigned from his spot behind the Panthers bench Tuesday.
"I resigned because I felt it was in the best interests of the boys on the team," the 56-year-old Fonzi, who was in his third season as Beverly's varsity head coach, said Tuesday night. "It was the right thing for me to do."
Beverly High School athletic director Dan Keefe confirmed the resignation early Tuesday afternoon.
Following Danvers' 2-1 overtime win over the Panthers at the Essex Sports Center in Middleton Monday afternoon, Fonzi put his two arms out and sent Falcons' first-year assistant Colby Mulry tumbling backwards onto the ice near the center ice dot.
The Danvers players and coaches had lined up for a traditional postgame handshake after their victory. But Fonzi told his squad to leave the ice and head back to the locker room, citing recent Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) policies regarding limiting such practices in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and the omicron variant.
Video of the incident that Fonzi and Mulry speaking towards each other, and Fonzi extended his hand from about 10 feet away from Mulry as if he were going to shake his hand, then turned as if to walk away. Mulry crossed the center ice line and got close to Fonzi before the Beverly coach pushed him backwards with two hands, causing him to fall to the ice.
Fonzi, who has coached hockey for 32 years, said after the incident he responded the way he did because Mulry was coming at him and not wearing a face covering. He also said he felt that someone from Danvers had "spit at me from the side", but did not believe that was Mulry.
"I certainly didn't expect any of this to happen," Fonzi said Tuesday. "I was nervous I was going to get hurt, which is why what happened did; I just reacted. I'm just very happy to hear that (Mulry) is OK."
Two Beverly High players — alternate captain Jaxon Thomas and sophomore forward Brad McAlpine — were on the ice at the time of the incident. Video shows Thomas shaking hands with his Danvers High counterpart, senior captain Connor Horn, prior to the fracas itself.
When Mulry fell backwards, the two referees who worked the game and were at center ice to monitor the proceedings immediately intervened and prevented anything further from happening. So did Beverly assistant coach Jim Sasso and several of the Danvers players, who along with Danvers head coach Kevin Fessette, got their team off the ice quickly.
Beverly High School issued two statements on Fonzi's resignation, one from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sue Charochak and another from Beverly High School Principal Elizabeth Taylor.
"The Beverly School district has accepted the resignation of Coach Greg Fonzi from his position as the head coach of the Beverly High School hockey team following an incident involving a Danvers High School assistant coach," said Charochak. "We are disappointed by this incident and affirm that the actions of the coach do not reflect the values of our district, nor the sports programs at Beverly High. At this time, the team will continue under the guidance of the assistant coaches until an appointment is made."
Taylor's letter, which was sent to the Beverly High boys hockey players and their parents, went as follows:
"I wanted you to know that the Beverly School district has accepted the resignation of Coach Greg Fonzi from his position as the head coach of the Beverly High School hockey team following an incident involving a Danvers High School assistant coach. We know that Mr. Fonzi's actions did not reflect the values of the team, the athletic program or the Beverly Public Schools. We know that the young men of the BHS hockey team will continue to commit to the values of sportsmanship, and Beverly High School will commit to providing the students with the support that they need. At this time, the team will continue under the guidance of the assistant coaches until an appointment for head coach is made."
Fonzi said that he had reached out to Fessette — a former Beverly High junior varsity hockey coach under Fonzi — in an attempt to get Mulry's information so that he could apologize to him.
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