Maple Ridge water polo player suspended for part in riot

Nathan Kotylak, 18, has been banned from competing by Water Polo Canada for two years

Nathan Kotylak has been suspended by Water Polo Canada for two years for his part in the Stanley Cup riot.

Nathan Kotylak has been suspended by Water Polo Canada for two years for his part in the Stanley Cup riot.

A Maple Ridge water polo player caught on camera holding a flame to a shirt stuffed in the gas tank of a police car during the Stanley Cup riot has been handed a two-year ban from competing for Canada.

On Monday, Water Polo Canada imposed the suspension on Nathan Kotylak, 18, that will prevent him from participating in any national team programs until June 2013.

Kotylak is also ineligible to receive Sport Canada funding for a two-year period.

In a written decision released to the lawyers representing Water Polo Canada and the athlete, the panel described Kotylak’s actions during the Vancouver Stanley Cup riots in June as “very serious.”

“Overall, I would say we’re satisfied with the panel’s ruling and the sanctions imposed,” said Ahmed El-Awadi, executive director of Water Polo Canada. “These are formidable punishments considering the age of the athlete. But, in our view, they are fully justified given the seriousness of the situation and the potential to dishonour and discredit our organization, our members, and Canadians in general.”

A Grade 12 student who had just graduated from a Maple Ridge private school, Kotylak was a star athlete who played on Canada’s junior national polo team when he was caught on camera participating in the mayhem that ensued after the Vancouver Canucks lost Game 7 of the cup finals to the Boston Bruins on June 15.

He had received a partial scholarship to attend the University of Calgary to study kinesiology and had hopes of competing in the Olympics.

Like other rioters identified, Kotylak was verbally attacked and threatened online. His cell phone number and home address were posted on several blogs and Facebook pages.

Kotylak’s lawyer, Bart Findlay, said the threats forced the family to leave their Maple Ridge home.

Kotylak’s father Greg, a surgeon at Ridge Meadows Hospital, had to close his office, as well.

Kotylak issued a public apology on television on June 18 after waiving his right of anonymity as a young offender.

He told Water Polo Canada’s disciplinary board that neither alcohol nor drugs fuelled his behaviour.

Although he attempted to get to a SkyTrain station after losing contact with his school mates, Kotylak said he became swept up in the emotions of the crowd. He was at a loss to explain what he was thinking when he decided to fan the flames of garbage bin fire, try to light a piece of cloth stuck in the gas tank of a police car and toss a piece of burning paper into its front seat.

Kotylak is now studying at West Valley College in Saratoga, California and plays for the school’s water polo team.

Since June 15, 70 suspected rioters have turned themselves in to police and the number keeps increasing daily. Besides Kotylak, three other people from Maple Ridge have admitted to participating in the riot.

None have been charged.

The Integrated Riot Investigation Team is currently reviewing approximately 600 gigabytes of data, 15,000 images and nearly 3,000 video files. Investigators continue to post photographs of suspected rioters online at for the public to identify.

Charges are expected sometime in November.