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Accused of abuse, Kyle Beach forces NHL to face its failures

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Accused of abuse, Kyle Beach forces NHL to face its failures

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A day after an investigation commissioned by the Chicago Blackhawks publicly revealed that senior team officials ignored the charge of sexually assaulting a player by a coach in the 2010 playoffs, the player is revealed to be Kyle Beach.

In a national television interview in Canada on Wednesday, Beach was asked if he had a message for the 16-year-old that video trainer Brad Aldrich was later convicted of sexual assault in Michigan in 2013.

“I’m sorry,” Beach said. “I’m sorry I didn’t do more, when I could, to make sure that didn’t happen to him. To protect him.

Beach, as the investigation report makes clear, was a victim of both Aldrich’s inappropriate behavior and the indifference of the National Hockey League. As a 20-year-old minor league player whose career was in the hands of Aldrich and other coaches and members of the Chicago organization, he had the least power, and yet he did the most to attract. attention to Aldrich’s behavior and is one of the few people who said he was sorry.

The consequences are still being felt with Florida Panthers NHL coach Joel Quenneville, who led the Blackhawks in 2010, resigned Thursday after meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. On Friday, Bettman decided not to punish Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, who was the Blackhawks’ assistant general manager in 2010. The Blackhawks owner wrote a letter to the Hockey Hall of Fame asking that the name of ‘Aldrich be removed from the Stanley Cup.

The entire hockey culture, from the kids’ divisions to the NHL, is once again scrutinized. It’s a familiar stance for a sport that has been overwhelmed in recent years by charges and lawsuits centered on hazing, abuse, misogyny and racism. But the cultural problems of hockey seem to have met at a time when they are impossible to ignore and the consequences – even belatedly – are being inflicted.

“I hope this whole process can bring about a systematic change to make sure this never happens again,” Beach said.

Beach’s charges were first brought publicly in May in a lawsuit against the Blackhawks that is still ongoing, but the team-ordered investigation found he immediately told a coach he had been assaulted in 2010.

Fourteen former Canadian amateur league players recently filed a complaint claiming they were sexually and physically assaulted while being hazed as teenagers. A former coach of a Pittsburgh Penguins minor league affiliate has accused the team in a lawsuit of firing him after reporting a boss sexually assaulted his wife. A group chat leaked to Instagram among a number of high profile players revealed they were making misogynistic comments about sexual conquests and other players’ girlfriends and wives. A former NHL player born in Nigeria accused a coach of referring to him with a racial slur and described a former teammate who had broken his teeth as a “racist sociopath”.

These seemingly disparate issues are all interrelated, said Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player who revealed in the 1990s that he was sexually assaulted by a coach while playing junior hockey. “It’s all basically under the same umbrella. It’s around discrimination, it’s around inclusion.

The typical environment – dreams of hockey fame, extreme power imbalances, pressure to signal tenacity, and a culture of sweeping things under the rug – is an incubator for toxic behavior.

Or, as Kennedy said in a phone interview while doing chores on his farm in Saskatchewan: “All anyone has to do is raise their hand as a hockey coach. Timbit, and they are God for under 8s. “

Organizations that ignore or cover up reports of sexual assault are not unique to hockey. But these problems can be exacerbated in hockey or other sports that Loretta Merritt, a Canadian lawyer who represents victims of sexual abuse, has called “the most macho sport of boys’ clubs.” Merritt wondered if the hockey culture made Aldrich, who said his sexual contact with Beach was consensual, “to think there is somehow more tolerance or a willingness to turn a blind eye. May be.”

After the investigative report was released on Tuesday, the NHL fined the Chicago team $ 2 million for “inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and late response,” and other consequences followed, such as resignation two senior officials from the Blackhawks and Quenneville. But that’s not the hard part, said Kennedy, who believes that talking about tough issues and reporting abuse should be built into a team’s ambitions, just like trying to win the Stanley Cup.

“These are easy answers,” he said. “We’re going to fine you. You must resign. These are the norm. This is the advice of your lawyer. For me, this is a culture change.

His post was echoed by Ken Dryden, the Montreal Canadiens Hall of Fame goaltender and a former Canadian Cabinet Minister who in recent years has been a leading critic of how the league has handled concussions. cerebral.

“Often on big issues like this, the only voices heard are those of commentators, and the decision makers are off the hook,” Dryden wrote in an email, declining to be interviewed. He added: “To me, someone else’s voice is just a distraction.”

The statements – from the NHL, the Blackhawks, the players’ union, Quenneville and Stan Bowman, the president of the Blackhawks who resigned Tuesday after the publication of the investigation report – have been numerous in recent days. There were fewer apologies and admissions of guilt.

“Today’s fine represents a direct and necessary response to the Club’s failure to track and deal with the 2010 incident in a timely and appropriate manner,” Bettman said in a lengthy process-focused statement and full of legal jargon.

Despite the constant pace of episodes demonstrating the failure of those in positions of power in hockey to eliminate abusive behavior, there have been immense cultural shifts regarding sexual abuse and other issues. Merritt filed dozens of lawsuits against the Toronto Maple Leafs and its employees and owners over the Maple Leaf Gardens sexual abuse scandal of the 1990s.

“What the institutions were doing when I started practicing in this field in the 90s, compared to what the institutions are doing today, is different,” she said. “Twenty or thirty years ago, people didn’t even show up because we didn’t believe them.”

Even though his charges were mistreated by the Blackhawks, Beach was believed to be. Through a skating coach, he told who sounded the alarm, by a former Blackhawks associate coach, by a few former teammates and his family. “I knew I was not alone,” he said in the TV interview. “And I can’t thank them enough for doing this, because it gave me the strength to go on with this.”

Merritt noted that widespread revelations about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight” helped change the way sexual abuse is viewed culturally. In hockey, people like Kennedy and Theo Fleury, who said he was assaulted by the same coach as Kennedy, and Martin Kruze, who was the first to report abuse that would become the Maple Leaf Gardens scandal and who went later committed suicide, helped create the conditions for Beach to report abuse in 2010 and have consequences in 2021.

However, important changes often only occur when they are required by law. “You don’t see drastic changes in the law or in people’s behavior very often,” Merritt said. “Things tend to change gradually. But when they are held to public accountability, when they are hit in their wallets with fines or other penalties, when they are sued for damages in court, it starts to change their behavior.

In the unsentimental and often damning language of newspapers and websites that cover hockey, Beach, now 31, was a bust. The 11th pick in the 2008 Draft, he never made it to the NHL and has spent the last few years bouncing back in the European leagues. The Canadian was not seen as tough enough, or competent enough, or hard enough.

We now know that he was suffering from trauma. “Shame and guilt, the impact is real,” Kennedy said. “I was not ready to answer these questions. You will never live up to your potential in life, not just in sports, when these events happen. “

Beach’s legacy is therefore being reassessed within hockey. But will this reassessment and this questioning spread – and stick – to the rest of the sport?

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