By: CBS Chicago’s Dave Savini
CHICAGO (CBS) — A youth hockey coach is accused of posing as a woman to abuse his players.READ MORE: Mt. Oliver Police Department Cracks Down On Drug Crimes After Months-Long Investigation
Now, another player has come forward. This player was a prominent, Stanley Cup-winning NHL goalie with the Pittsburgh Penguins who is sharing his story.
On April 13, 1991, the Pittsburgh Penguins were down 3 games to 2 against the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and Penguins backup goalie Frank Pietrangelo started in place of the injured Tom Barrasso.
Pietrangelo famously made a glove save against the Devils’ Peter Šťastný – a play that has gone down in Penguins history simply as “The Save.”
The Penguins went on to win the Stanley Cup that year, and Pietrangelo went down as the hero of the 1991 Stanley Cup playoffs.
“And it ended up being one of those things people remembered,” he said.
How did Pietrangelo get so good? He went through years of training and coaching, but there’s one coach he wishes he could forget.
“We’d go into this room and it was about visualization, as far as what he used to say,” Pietrangelo said.
Pietrangelo is still haunted by what he said happened to him during unusual visualization drills run by University of Minnesota goalie coach Tom “Chico” Adrahtas.
“I had never been through anything like that before, since, during. Never seen anything like this,” Pietrangelo said. “But that was a first time that this type of inappropriate stuff started happening.”
At first, the drills seemed strange, but harmless. As the weeks passed, Pietrangelo says the coach started getting more personal – asking him to dinner and about girlfriends.
At the same time, the visualization drills got more uncomfortable.
Pietrangelo: “It was just inappropriate. You know, he’d touch you everywhere. He’d just do whatever he wanted to you.”
CBS Chicago’s Dave Savini: “So he had you in a room that was darkened with a blindfold on, and he would start to touch you?”
Pietrangelo: “Yeah. It was just wrong.”
There’s more. Pietrangelo said Adrahtas was the only coach to enter the shower area after every practice.
Pietrangelo: “It was completely wrong.”
Savini: “You actually remember seeing him watching you and the other guys in the shower?”
Pietrangelo: “Every time we were in there, that guy was around the showers. Absolutely ridiculous. And you know, he was there for a reason. He was there to look at the guys and check them out and whatever he was doing – in my opinion anyway. And furthermore, how was he never stopped? You know, how was he allowed to come in there every day and do that?”
Pietrangelo said another teammate fell victim to the same coach.
“That story happened. We lived it. It was friend of mine,” Pietrangelo said. “He ended up quitting the team.”
He said his friend fell for what players called the “Sheila” ruse. Players said it involved Adrahtas convincing them he knew a woman named Sheila who would perform a sex act on them, but only if they agreed to be blindfolded with their hands and feet bound.
Savini: “So you’re aware of other players who also were tricked into a ruse of a woman named Sheila?”
Pietrangelo: “Yes, 100%.”
Adrahtas is accused of running the “Sheila” ruse in multiple states for decades. CBS Chicago Investigators exposed how it all started in the 1980s, a few years before he got hired in Minnesota – when Adrahtas was coaching teens and living in Lisle, Illinois.
“His M.O. was he had this woman and her name was Sheila,” said Mike Sacks.
“Yes, he named her Sheila – that was the name used,” said Chris Jensen.
Sacks, Jensen, and Kelly Gee were all teens when they say they were blindfolded, bound and abused.
“The leather belt on the ankles and stuff like that got tighter and tighter,” Gee said.
“And then he takes me up and he blindfolds me,” Jensen said.READ MORE: Parents Of Woodland Hills High School Students Concerned About School Safety Following Another Threat
Sacks, who was 16 at the time, suspects on several occasions, the coach may have brought other adults in the room to play the role of “Sheila.”
“We were definitely being prostituted out,” Sacks said.
The men say they were groomed by Adrahtas in their teens – taken out for dinners, shown pornography and sometimes taken to see strippers or prostitutes – and then all tricked into the same “Sheila” sex abuse ruse.
“He threatened me. He threatened me,” Sacks said. “If I didn’t do it, then he was going to stop helping my career.”
The men shared their stories with our CBS Chicago Investigators in May. Pietrangelo heard them and decided to tell his.
“This has been a nightmare for many people,” Pietrangelo said.
He now believes that visualization drill was part of a grooming process.
Savini: “So you know there’s more players that have yet to come forward?”
Pietrangelo: “There has to be. This guy, I believe he’s done this from the day he started. I believe he’s done this every single year, wherever he’s been.”
Adrathas’ coaching career spanned four decades, and numerous youth and college teams. Ultimately, he resigned in 2018 from a hockey job at that Robert Morris University that is located in Illinois.
He left the state during a U.S. Center for Safe Sport investigation into decades of sexual misconduct claims.
WATCH CBS Chicago’s Report Here:
So where is he now? CBS Chicago tracked him down in Florida.
“What do you have to say about your former players that are accusing you of sex abuse?” Savini asked him.
Adrahtas has been officially banned by U.S. Center for Safe Sport from coaching any sport ever again. But Adrahatas has never been criminally charged. The players say that is because the repeated abuse allegations were never properly investigated.
Savini: “They say you tricked them into believing that you were a woman named Sheila.”
Adrahtas: “They’re wrong.”
Savini: “Were you Sheila? Were you Sheila?”
Five former players say Adrahtas abused them and are suing the University of Minnesota, the Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois, and USA Hockey for failing to investigate and stop Adrahtas despite numerous complaints from the 1980s to the 2000s.
“For the last 40 years, Chico Adrahtas was the bogeyman of Illinois hockey,” attorney Lee Jacobson said at a recent news conference.
And now, Pietrangelo is joining that lawsuit.
“They just ignored it. They just dismissed this guy, slide – you know, go away, let the problem go away,” Pietrangelo said. “Well, the problem never did go away, and us that were affected by this, we have to live with it every day.”
Pietrangelo said he and other players reported the coach to university officials. A University of Minnesota statement to CBS said they failed to investigate allegations back then. That admission came in May, and given the lawsuit, they are not currently saying more.
USA Hockey and the Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois both say they reported the coach to proper authorities.
Meanwhile, Sacks and Gee have started a foundation to help others suffering similar abuse.
USA Hockey reported Adrahtas to the U.S. Center for SafeSport which, last June, banned him from coaching:
“There have been two investigations related to the Tom Adrahtas abuse allegations conducted by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, and the investigations and results are described below. As I believe you are aware, the U.S. Center for SafeSport has exclusive jurisdiction to investigate and resolve any allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse within USA Hockey programs. USA Hockey is not permitted to conduct any independent investigations of these matters.
“On September 12, 2018, USA Hockey received a report (forwarded to USA Hockey by the ACHA – American Collegiate Hockey Association) from a former player detailing sexual abuse by Adrahtas during the 1983-85 time period. Our staff immediately reported the matter to the Center for SafeSport and acknowledged receipt of the report to the former player that submitted the report. The next day, the Center for SafeSport issued a temporary suspension of Adrahtas, and USA Hockey immediately notified the ACHA and Robert Morris University of the suspension. Adrahtas remained under suspension and was ineligible to participate in any program sanctioned by USA Hockey (as well as all sports governed by the USOPC) throughout the investigation. On June 1, 2020, the Center issued its decision declaring that Adrahtas was permanently ineligible ‘from participating, in any capacity, in any event, program, activity, or competition authorized by, organized by, or under the auspices of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), the National Governing Bodies recognized by the USOPC, a Local Affiliated Organization as defined by the Code, or any High Performance Management Organization (HPMO), or at a facility under the jurisdiction of the same.’”
AHAI said they called prosecutors, but were told too much time passed.
The University of Minnesota admits failing to investigate sexual abuse claims:
“The University of Minnesota expects its coaches, administrators, faculty, and staff to report any allegations of misconduct so the University can fully and confidentially investigate them. We also expect our leaders at all levels to immediately and fully address findings of wrongdoing. These steps are vital to building a culture that prevents sexual misconduct and responds seriously when concerns are raised. Every member of the University community shares a responsibility to each other: to help provide safe and respectful learning and work places so we can all reach our full potential. With this in mind, the findings outlined in this investigation, even after 35 years, are disturbing.
“This investigation was an important step, even if conducted decades after alleged activity occurred. It is important that the University examine the past: Did the University confront and stop improper conduct? Did the University support the prompt and full reporting of misconduct? Did the University facilitate the many steps needed to address the human consequences of behavior that often leaves lasting wounds?
“The University has taken significant steps in the years since the events described here to ensure any allegations of misconduct are promptly reported and thoroughly investigated. University policies are strong and clearly prohibit sexual misconduct; President Gabel continues an institution-wide commitment to the President’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Misconduct, which includes training for University employees and students; mandatory reporting obligations for faculty and staff are clearly stated; and anonymous reporting options exist to create and maintain a culture of safety and respect.
“We greatly respect and appreciate those who participated in this investigation. Telling one’s story—particularly so long after events allegedly occurred—can be painful and disruptive. Those individuals who came forward should be commended for their strength and willingness to help us pursue the truth.
“Finally, the University has resources available to anyone who has experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct. We hope all members of our University community will turn to the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office and the Aurora Center for confidential support.”
Roosevelt University, with which Robert Morris University has since merged, issued this statement:
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“Roosevelt University values every member of its community. It is important to the University that it works to ensure that all students, faculty and staff feel comfortable coming forward with concerns at any time and will investigate them promptly and thoroughly.
“We have steps in place to make sure that our students and athletes are safe and feel comfortable voicing any and all concerns. The safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff is our utmost priority. Roosevelt has extensive resources and a clear reporting hierarchy to support students dealing with assault, abuse or inappropriate behaviors, For a full listing of student support services and reporting pathways visit roosevelt.edu/title-ix.”
For more details, visit our sister station, CBS Chicago, at this link.