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With abuse allegations, Kyle Beach forced the NHL to face its failures

An investigation launched by the Chicago Blackhawks came a day after it was publicly disclosed that the team’s top officials had ignored allegations of sexual assault of a player by a coach during the 2010 playoffs, the player being Kyle Beach. was detected.

In an interview on national television in Canada on Wednesday, Beach was asked if she had a message for the 16-year-old boy that video coach 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 her. To protect her.”

Beach, as the investigation report made clear, was the victim of both inappropriate behavior by Aldrich and indifference from 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 draw attention to Aldrich’s behavior and One of them is some people have said they are sorry.

The results are still echoing through NHL Florida Panthers coach Joel Queneville, who led the Blackhawks in 2010, resigning Thursday after meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bateman. On Friday, Bateman made a decision not to penalize Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Sheveldoff, who was assistant general manager for the Blackhawks in 2010. The Blackhawks’ owner wrote a letter to the Hockey Hall of Fame asking that Aldrich’s name be dropped from Stanley. Cup.

The entire culture of hockey, from the children’s divisions through the NHL, is once again under the microscope. It’s a familiar situation for a sport that has been beset with accusations and lawsuits in recent years that focus on misogyny, misogyny, misogyny and racism. But it seems that hockey’s cultural problems have arrived at a moment when they are impossible to ignore, and when the consequences – no matter how late – are being met.

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

Beach’s allegations were first publicly leveled in May in a lawsuit filed against the Blackhawks that is still ongoing, but investigations launched by the team showed that he immediately told a coach that in 2010 He was assaulted.

Fourteen former players in an amateur Canadian league have recently filed a lawsuit claiming they were sexually and physically assaulted when they were teenagers. A former coach of a Pittsburgh Penguins minor league affiliate has accused the team of sacking him after he revealed that his wife was sexually assaulted by a boss. The leak of an Instagram group chat between several top players revealed sexual Vijay and making false comments about girlfriends and wives of other players. A former NHL player who was born in Nigeria accused a coach of referring to him with racial slurs and described a former teammate who had knocked his teeth out as a “racist sociopath”.

These seemingly separate issues are all intertwined, said Sheldon Kennedy, a former NHL player who disclosed in the 1990s that he was sexually abused by a coach while playing junior hockey. “All this stuff is basically under one umbrella. It’s around discrimination, it’s around inclusion.”

The typical environment—dreams of hockey stardom, extreme power imbalances, the pressure of signal rigor and a culture of sweeping things under the rug—is an incubator for toxic behavior.

Or, as Kennedy put it during a telephone interview while working on his farm in Saskatchewan: “Someone just has to lay their hands on Timbit hockey coach, and they’re a god for 8-and-unders.”

Organizations that ignore or hide reports of sexual harassment are not unique to hockey. But these problems can be extended to hockey, or to other sports, which Canadian lawyer Loretta Merritt, who represents victims of sexual abuse, described as “more masculine boys’ club type sports”. has been done. Merritt wondered whether the culture of hockey made Aldrich, who has said that his sexual contact with Beach was consensual, “seems to have more of a kind of tolerance or willingness to turn a blind eye. Possibly.”

Following the release of the investigation report on Tuesday, the NHL fined the Chicago team $2 million for “inadequate internal procedures and inadequate and untimely response,” and there have been more consequences such as the resignation of two top Blackhawks officials and Queneville. But that’s not the hard part, said Kennedy, who believes that talking about difficult issues and reporting abuse should be embedded in a team’s ambitions, such as trying to win the Stanley Cup.

“Those are easy responses,” he said. “We’re going to fix you. You need to resign. That’s the criteria. It’s your lawyer’s advice. For me, it’s about culture change.”

His message was echoed by Montreal Canadiens Hall of Fame goaltender and Ken Dryden, a former Canadian cabinet minister, who in recent years has been a prominent critic of how the league has handled conflicts.

“Often on big questions like this, it ends up where only the voices of the commentators are heard, and the decision-makers are let off the hook,” Dryden wrote in an email, refusing to be interviewed. “To me, someone else’s voice is just a distraction,” he said.

Statements – from the NHL, from the Blackhawks, from the players’ union, from Queneville and from Blackhawks president Stan Bowman, who resigned on Tuesday following the release of the investigation report – have been plentiful in recent days. Less plentiful have been apologies and acknowledgments of culpability.

“Today’s penalty represents a direct and necessary response to the club’s failure to address the 2010 incident in a timely and appropriate manner,” Bateman said in a lengthy statement focused on the process and filled with legalese.

Despite the frequent drumming of episodes showcasing the failure of those in positions of power in hockey to root out abusive behavior, there have been enormous cultural changes around sexual abuse and other issues. Merritt has brought dozens of cases against the Toronto Maple Leafs and its employees and owners in the 1990 Maple Leaf Gardens sex abuse scandal.

“What institutions were doing when I started practicing in this field in the 90s is different from what institutions do today,” she said. “Twenty or thirty years ago people wouldn’t even come forward because they weren’t believed.”

However, his charges were handled poorly by the Blackhawks, Beach believed. He was told by a skating coach who had raised the alarm by a former associate coach of the Blackhawks, some former teammates and his family. “I knew I was not alone,” he said in the television interview. “And I could never thank them enough for doing this, because it gave me the strength to move on.”

Merritt noted that widespread revelations about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and the Academy Award-winning film “Spotlight” had helped change the way this type of abuse was seen culturally. In hockey, people such as Kennedy and Theo Fleury, who have said they were abused by the same coach as Kennedy, and Martin Cruz, who was the first to report the abuse, became the Maple Leaf Gardens scandal. and later killed himself, helped create. Terms to make it easier for Beach to report its abuse in 2010 and for it to have some consequences in 2021.

However, significant change often only comes when it is forced by law. “You don’t see radical changes in the law or people’s behavior very often,” Merritt said. “Things move incrementally. But when they are held publicly accountable, when they are hit with fines or other punishments in their wallets, when they are prosecuted in the courts for damages, it is Begins to change behavior.”

In the insensitive and often hurtful language of newspapers and websites covering hockey, Beach, now 31, was a bust. The 11th pick of the 2008 draft, he never made it to the NHL and spent the last few years bouncing around in European leagues. Canadians were not seen as tough enough, or skilled enough, or hardworking enough.

We now know that he struggled with trauma. “Shame and guilt, the effect is real,” Kennedy said. “I was not prepared to answer those questions. You will never be able to live up to your potential in life, not just in sports, when these events happen.”

Beach’s legacy is undergoing a reassessment within hockey. But will that reappraisal and questioning spread – and survive the rest of the game?

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