An Amherst youth hockey coach, who is better known around the National Hockey League as a player agent, has been accused of grabbing the throat of a parent of another team's player last month during a tournament in Niagara Falls, according to authorities.
Michael Wulkan, coach of an Amherst 8 and Under team, was charged in connection with an alleged locker room altercation Jan. 13 in the Hyde Park Ice Pavilion. An attorney for Wulkan flatly denied the charges on behalf of his client.
Wulkan, 49, of Amherst, represents NHL players including Matt Hendricks of the Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators goalie Mike Condon. He once represented former Buffalo Sabre J.P. Dumont.
"Wulkan was allegedly upset that two teams were using the same locker room and began shouting and throwing items in view of the players," according to a Niagara Falls police report.
That was when he grabbed a 41-year-old North Tonawanda man, who was the parent of a player on the Niagara University Junior Purple Eagles 8 and Under team, by the throat, according to the report.
Wulkan's attorney, John J. Fromen Jr., said his client never choked anyone or put his hands on anyone's neck.
"There's more to the story than the documents state," Fromen told The Buffalo News.
Police attempted to interview Wulkan after the incident, which happened about 2:30 p.m., but officers were not able to find him at the rink, the report said.
Inside the locker room, Wulkan demanded Junior Purple Eagles players move to one side of the room, according to a witness statement filed by an off-duty Niagara Falls police detective who has a child on the Purple Eagles and was in the locker room.
"The children complied, however, they were not moving fast enough for Mike (it appeared)," Detective Todd N. Faddoul wrote.
The victim was finishing getting his son dressed and Wulkan approached the man, demanding his son move off the bench. That was when Wulkan allegedly threw a hockey bag across the room, according to Faddoul's statement.
The victim then walked up to Wulkan and "advised him that he was out of line."
"At that point, Mike reached out and grabbed [the victim] by the throat" before several parents and other Amherst coaches intervened, according to the detective's statement.
Wulkan was charged with criminal obstruction of breathing, a misdemeanor, and second-degree harassment, a violation. Falls police issued a warrant for his arrest on Tuesday and Wulkan turned himself in Thursday, police said. He pleaded not guilty in Niagara Falls City Court on Thursday and was released on his own recognizance.
Wulkan could not be reached for comment Friday, but his attorney told The News it was the alleged victim who was the aggressor in the incident.
The criminal charges are based on statements "completely fabricated by the parents from the team that was involved," Fromen said.
There are "diametrically opposed versions" of what happened in that locker room, he said. Wulkan has "impeccable credentials as a hockey coach" and has never run afoul of the law before, according to the attorney.
"It's a bunch of disgruntled hockey parents who don't like the defendant and they have gone out of their way to escalate this thing well beyond what should have happened," he said.
Steven Bengart, president of Amherst Youth Hockey, said Wulkan was suspended from the program several weeks ago.
"It's an unfortunate circumstance," Bengart said. "As we all know, everybody is innocent until proven guilty."
Upon learning of the situation, the Amherst association and state amateur hockey officials suspended Wulkan pending a hearing and the outcome of the criminal charges, he said.
Joe Baudo, a director with USA Hockey and president of the New York State Amateur Hockey Association, said the matter is under investigation. He declined further comment.
A hearing was held before USA Hockey officials earlier this week. Their decision is due within five days of the hearing, Fromen said.