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(NECN: Ally Donnelly, Winthrop, Mass.) - At Winthrop High School, student athletes balk at the notion that the boys' hockey coach would have drank with or even allowed his players to have beer in the locker room.
Said senior Justin Casila, "I'm sure he had nothing to do with it.
Senior Vinny Sparacino agreed, "what coach would let his players drink?"
But, along with an assistant coach, head coach Dale Dunbar has been suspended with pay after Winthrop Police confirm he's at the center of an underage drinking investigation.
Said local Jen Marley, "If they're under age, it's against the law and it shouldn't be happening."
According to police, it was just before midnight Friday after the team had returned from losing a tournament game in Woburn. Officers on patrol saw lights on at the Larson rink inside the mike Eruzione center with the team plays and practices. When they went inside police say they found many discarded beer cans and both players and coaches in the locker room area, but didn't see the students or coaches actually drinking.
Said senior football player Tyler Gillis, "I think it's being blown way out of proportion. It's happening all over America, teenagers drinking, it's not just us."
Police Chief Terrence Delahanty has not released the police report citing an ongoing investigation, but said, "This won't be tolerated. Bad decisions were made that night. It's extremely serious when you mix students and staff with alcohol together in a building that happens to be a school."
Dunbar is a local hockey star who has coached Winthrop teams for the past decade. We tried to get his side of the story but couldn't reach him. Mike Eruzione, Olympic hero and an assistant coach for Dunbar for years, says he would bet his life Dunbar had nothing to do with any beer officers found.
"This sickens me that he's been thrown under the bus. It's not typical of Dale or the players he's coached. We've never had an incident before, ever," Eruzione said.
Former hockey dad Phil Hamilton, dad whose son graduated under Dunbar last year, points to Dunbar's company Leaders4Life, that teaches teens ethics and leadership skills.
"He's a man of integrity and trust. I'm disappointed that these accusations were made before he could even defend himself," Hamilton said.
The Winthrop police investigation remains ongoing, but Dunbar and the assistant coach could face charges of furnishing alcohol to minors. The Winthrop superintendent of schools did not return our calls asking any students have been or could be disciplined.