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Former Canadian World Juniors coach under investigation by U.S. Center for SafeSport

World Junior head coach Dennis Williams World Junior head coach Dennis Williams - Hockey Canada Images

Editor’s note: Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison told TSN on Aug. 5 that his league has been advised by USA Hockey that the U.S. Center for SafeSport has closed its investigation.


The U.S. Center for SafeSport is investigating a complaint made against Dennis Williams, the head coach and general manager of the Everett Silvertips who also coached Canada’s 2023 World Junior team, Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison has confirmed to TSN.

Robison wrote in a July 27 email that the WHL and Silvertips were notified by USA Hockey on May 25 that a complaint had been made against the 43-year-old Williams with the U.S. Center for SafeSport and that an investigation was proceeding.

“The WHL and the Everett Silvertips are not aware of the nature of the complaint as [the U.S. Center for SafeSport] has full jurisdiction and the matter is confidential,” Robison wrote. “The WHL and the Everett Silvertips are cooperating fully with [the U.S. Center for SafeSport] and USA Hockey on this matter.”

A Silvertips spokesperson wrote in an email to TSN that the WHL has advised the team that the league will handle public comments on the allegations.

The U.S. Center for SafeSport was created in 2017 by the U.S. Olympic Committee to independently investigate allegations of misconduct in amateur sports, taking that responsibility away from organizations such as USA Hockey. The U.S. Center for SafeSport has jurisdiction because the Silvertips play in Washington. 

TSN has obtained a copy of a complaint made May 10. In that document, a complainant alleged that several players had shared concerns about Williams using player showers and coming out wearing only a towel while they were in the adjoining team dressing room. 

The complaint also alleged that during the team’s training camp in 2021, Williams “walked into the bathroom while [a] player was losing consciousness following VO2 max testing. Dennis took a photo of the player on his phone while the player was on the bathroom floor and walked out, leaving the player unconscious on the bathroom floor. The player was 17 at the time.”

In VO2 max testing, participants exercise on a treadmill or bike to the point of exhaustion while wearing a mask that can measure air input and output from the participant’s lungs.

The complaint also alleged that a “fighting ring” took place involving players during training camp in 2021.

Williams, who has coached in Everett since 2017-18, was head coach of Canada’s 2023 World Juniors team, which won gold at the event in Halifax and Moncton, N.B. Williams also won a gold medal at the 2022 World Juniors as an assistant coach and a silver at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in 2019 as an assistant coach for Hockey Canada’s U18 team.

In addition to the complaint with the U.S. Center for SafeSport, former Silvertips equipment manager Damon Pugerude told TSN he made a complaint on Jan. 23 to the WHL’s Player Advisory Council, a committee formed by the league last year to independently investigate allegations of bullying, harassment, and other forms of misconduct. 

That committee is chaired by Patrick Nogier, interim chief with the Prince Albert Police Service. Nogier is also a former WHL player.

Pugerude said he believes he was fired by the Silvertips this summer because he reported Williams’ alleged misconduct.

“I told the league what happened, what players told me about being uncomfortable with Williams using their shower and coming out wearing only a towel,” Pugerude said. “They said it was no problem, that they would just have him use a different shower. At the end of the day, they didn’t really fix the problem.”

Robison wrote in his email to TSN that the Player Advisory Council investigated Pugerude’s complaint and determined that there was no evidence of criminal activity and that Williams’ conduct did not violate any WHL policies.

Robison wrote that the council on Jan. 30 asked the WHL Security Network, which is led by retired Calgary police officer Kevan Stuart, to follow up with Pugerude and Everett team management. The security network then spoke to Pugerude to review his concerns and worked with the Silvertips to “immediately rectify the shower location issue,” Robison wrote.

Robison wrote that Pugerude did not provide any information regarding the alleged VO2 max or fighting ring incidents during interviews with the league’s player advisory council and security network.

The WHL reopened its investigation this week, following up on those two alleged incidents.

“The WHL Head of Security has concluded his follow-up investigation and has found there is no evidence to support any of the allegations that have been made by Mr. Pugerude,” Robison wrote in an email to TSN on Friday. “The investigation also concluded that Mr. Williams did not violate WHL conduct policies.”