So many people failed Kyle Beach — and some continue to do so at this hour — that even the NHL’s most ardent fans no doubt find it difficult today to remain engaged with the sport they love.
Of course, that will pass, because the fans always come back, as do the media, no matter how high the price of loyalty or how ignorant, callous, or cavalier the actions of those in virtually every facet of the NHL’s infrastructure.
Like all sports, the NHL is a make-believe world, and fans time and again have proven loath to surrender their fantasy, even amid such cruel episodes as Beach’s claim that he was sexually assaulted by onetime Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich.
Beach, 31, bravely made public those accusations for the first time Wednesday night on TSN “SportsCentre,” more than 11 years after he first told Blackhawks management that Aldrich victimized him in the late stages of the club’s successful Stanley Cup run in 2010.
Per their internal investigation made public Tuesday, leading to the abrupt resignation of general manager Stan Bowman and dismissal of righthand man Al MacIsaac, the Blackhawks horrendously failed Beach upon his reporting of the alleged assault in 2010, then continued to do so for the 11-plus years prior to his filing suit against the club in May.
Based on Chicago’s internal investigation and report, which included 139 witnesses interviewed over four months, management dragged its feet on dealing with Aldrich in the thick of that Cup run.
To make matters worse, upon deciding to address the problem some three weeks later, after clinching the title, the Blackhawks allowed Aldrich to resign rather than be investigated. The free pass allowed Aldrich to land employment with hockey teams at both Miami University (Ohio) and a high school in Houghton, Mich. He was quietly shown the door in Chicago, his alleged assault hidden, his name etched on the Cup.
Guess what happened with the can kicked down the road? Surprise, more cases of alleged sexual abuse, including a conviction, against more young hockey players. Outrageous. Also preventable.
Upon being forced to resign, Bowman said he felt the team president at the time, John McDonough, would handle the situation. He did, but after winning the Cup, and then by reporting it to the club’s human resources department. The quiet goodbye was in place.
We know the drill all too well around here. We watched the Archdiocese of Boston for years shield pedophile priests, repeatedly shuffling perpetrators from one parish to another, in many cases allowing them to be serial abusers.
The sin ignored is the sin perpetuated. The Blackhawks won’t suffer nearly the same falloff at the gate that the archdiocese endured, but their abject failure was in lockstep with that of Bernard Law, the cardinal who bumbled his way through a scandal that ultimately rocked virtually every corner of the church.
According to Beach in his TSN interview, Bowman, MacIsaac, and five other high-ranking Blackhawks officials, including then-coach Joel Quenneville, were made privy to his accusations at a May 23, 2010, meeting, immediately following the win over San Jose that clinched a berth in the Cup Final. McDonough, to be dismissed in the summer of 2020 for reasons not related to Beach’s case, also attended the meeting.
Beach told TSN reporter Rick Westhead that the investigation made it clear that Quenneville told Bowman he felt it was an inopportune time to address Beach’s claims because “it was hard for the team to get to where they were and they could not deal with the issue now.”
In short, the mission of winning the Cup trumped morals. They let their video coach skate free because addressing the claim might impede the path to the Cup. Repulsive.
Beach, a 20-year-old prospect, was left with no apology, no explanation, no emotional support, no justice.
Adding to the humiliation, one of the seven men in that meeting, said Beach, told him he was partly at fault for Aldrich’s actions. Jim “Doc” Gary, the club’s mental skills coach and team counselor, said “it was my fault because I put myself in that situation,” according to Beach.
The situation alleged by Beach: Aldrich threatened to hit him with a baseball bat unless he submitted to the coach performing oral sex on him. Beach was dealt a vile example of victim blaming.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman met with Quenneville Thursday, the day after the coach was behind the Florida bench for the Panthers’ win over the Bruins. Kevin Cheveldayoff, who was Bowman’s assistant GM in 2010, met with Bettman Friday.
By Thursday evening, Quenneville was out of work, allowed to resign in the wake of the humiliating details revealed in the Blackhawks investigation.
Bettman determined Friday that Cheveldayoff was the “lowest-ranking” team official in the room at that key May 2010 meeting, and therefore did not have influence over how the Aldrich-Beach case played out. He will remain the Winnipeg Jets general manager.
Bettman should have suspended both Quenneville and Cheveldayoff immediately earlier in the week, pending their hearings. The commissioner’s lack of alacrity was yet another disturbing misstep in the process, particularly allowing QuennevIlle to coach Wednesday’s game.
“No way can he deny knowing it,” Beach told TSN, in reference to Quenneville, 63, who isn’t likely to coach again in the NHL.
“The playoffs and trying to win the Cup were more important than sexual assault. I can’t believe that. As a human, I cannot believe that and I cannot accept that.”
In another stunning revelation, Beach said the NHL Players Association, headed by executive director Don Fehr, ignored his claims against Aldrich. He was particularly pointed in his criticism of Fehr, who took over the NHLPA in the aftermath of a player coup that ousted Boston attorney Paul Kelly as union boss in 2009.
“For him to turn his back on the players, when his one job is to protect the players at all costs, I don’t know how that can be your leader,” said Beach. “He’s supposed to have the players’ backs, and they definitely didn’t have mine.”
Fehr, the former longtime head of baseball’s Players Association, issued a statement later Wednesday in which he said there was “no doubt” that the “system” failed to support Beach.
“And we are part of that system,” he added.
Notice the critical nuance? Beach put it right on Fehr’s nose, as he should, and Fehr in turn pointed to the system as being culpable. Another leadership fail.
The NHLPA rank and file need to take a very long look at Fehr and union leadership. Like the Blackhawks, it appears that Fehr et al ignored Beach’s pain and suffering and let the case disappear into thin air. If the players care to think this through, the right thing for them to do is hire their own investigators to conduct a thorough review of union leadership and how the Beach case was so horribly botched.
No one in this sad, sordid tale has yet stepped up in the first person to say, “I failed Kyle Beach.” If you’re holding your breath for that, make it a deep one.
The players put Fehr on the job over Kelly because they felt he could better wring every penny out of the owners. Kelly trained as an assistant US attorney and often chased guys (see: Alan Eagleson, ex-NHLPA boss) who were only about dough. Had the claim hit his desk as NHLPA boss in 2010, it’s doubtful that Beach would be seeking justice a decade-plus later and the league would be wearing its black shiners.
Perhaps the day will come when the players, their union, NHL club owners, and the commissioner stop prioritizing growing the game and building wealth as their raisons d’etre. I suppose that will be all the harder now with the monster that is legalized gambling about to devour whole the narratives of all the games we love.
Kyle Beach should be a reminder, yet again, that the true underpinning of sport is not money, but the human condition, viewed through the lens of players winning, losing, persevering.
The failings of so many people — those who could have made a difference — perpetuated the dehumanization and pain of Kyle Beach. Instead of being able to rise on the shoulders of others, he was forced to survive the collective spinelessness of the many who could have and should have been there for him.
Bruins benefit from
GM Don Sweeney added 2,001 games of NHL experience to the Bruins lineup with the summer signings of forwards Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, and Tomas Nosek, along with defenseman Derek Forbort.
In net, Linus Ullmark logged 117 games with the Sabres before signing in Boston in July. Factor in the 1,225 games that Taylor Hall, Mike Reilly, and Curtis Lazar all played before arriving in Boston at the April 12 trade deadline, and Sweeney in a span of 107 days padded his roster with 3,343 games played — the equivalent of nearly 41 seasons of seasoning.
Games played don’t always necessarily translate to on-ice IQ, but with experience comes knowledge, and there’s no denying that coach Bruce Cassidy is dealing with a bigger brain bank on his bench this season.
The additions of Foligno (currently injured), Haula, and Nosek, in particular, give Cassidy myriad options. All three are comfortable at center and at least one wing spot. Haula has been especially effective at the No. 3 center spot, usually with Jake DeBrusk on his left side. Before his injury, Foligno was a solid fit at No. 3 right wing.
“Some of it is just experience,” said Cassidy. “They’ve been around for a reason. So you add some of these depth guys who are older, and have played some different roles — because they can figure it out and are willing to figure it out. They’re at the stages of their career now that they want to come to a good place, win with good people.”
The incoming veterans, added team captain Patrice Bergeron, have brought with them the experience of playing “the ups and downs of a season,” and have played under different systems with a “different way of thinking.”
“You bring that together, and it’s always important,” added the Chairman of the Boards. “I’m always curious to know a little bit more what they think can be done better both on and off the ice.”
Experience and IQ can make a big difference, said Bergeron, when on-ice order is breaking down.
“You know, when you’re scrambling in your zone and you’re not running around all over the place, and remembering to go back to your position and put on the brakes,” he said. “Little things like that, the details go a long way.”
An individual’s flexibility can be important for a coach such as Cassidy who is prone to in-game line changes. Higher player IQ equals higher degree of comfort for any bench boss.
“I’m not a guy who calls a line and just sticks with it forever,” Cassidy said. “Some guys are more inclined to do that, right or wrong. I sometimes would rather go with a guy who’s on his game that night than a guy who isn’t. If a guy can move around, it’s a lot easier to do that.”
Milbury finds outlet
with new podcast
Promising he’ll be fun, honest, and likely to “piss a few people off and not care about it,” Mike Milbury will launch his five-day-a-week podcast, Mike Milbury’s Fight Club, on Nov. 15.
“I’ve already been thrown out of my job,” said Milbury, 69, the ex-Bruins defenseman, then coach, and later Islanders general manager, “so I’ve got nothing left to lose.”
Fight Club members will have to pony up $5 a month to listen to Milbury’s takes, which will be available every afternoon, Monday through Friday.
Ken London, producer/director of Channel 38′s Bruins broadcasts of long ago, is the podcast’s founder/producer, in partnership with executive producer Bob Snyder, once the guiding hand in the Bob Ryan podcast.
Lorie G (last name withheld, her attempt to protect her sanity) will be the cohost, and Dennis Elia the sound engineer.
Milbury has been out of the public eye since the summer of 2020, when he was abruptly dumped by NBC for what some deemed to be a sexist comment on air during a game at the Toronto “bubble” playoffs. The crux of the comment: Milbury said players in the bubble were better focused because their spartan-like existence didn’t include wives or girlfriends, whom he labeled as “distractions.”
“The National Hockey League condemns the insensitive and insulting comment that Mike Milbury made during last night’s broadcast and we have communicated our feelings to NBC,” read the league’s statement. “The comment did not reflect the NHL’s values and commitment to making our game more inclusive and welcoming to all.”
It was a gross overreaction, and it cost Milbury his on-air career. Neither ESPN nor TNT evinced any interest in his services when they filled out their on-air staffs over the summer. He was blackballed.
The same league that bumrushed Milbury to the unemployment line some 18 months ago just dilly-dallied in dealing with Joel Quenneville and Kevin Cheveldayoff, leaving them on their jobs while commissioner Gary Bettman figured out a time to sit down with them. Anyone see the hypocrisy there?
Amid all the buzz around Kyle Beach, the Blackhawks flopped badly out of the gate, posting a risible 0-5-2 in their first seven games and getting outscored, 30-14. With the weekend approaching, ex-Columbus backliner Seth Jones stood as their top scorer (0-6—6), but he was also a miserable minus-9. Not the mark of a franchise defenseman, on the books for an average $9.5 million a year starting next season. In his first four outings, franchise goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had a 5.75 GAA and an .839 save percentage. Mercy … Beach and Zach Hamill, whom the Bruins picked at No. 8 in the 2007 draft, both played junior out West for the Everett Silvertips. The No. 9 pick in the ‘07 draft: San Jose’s Logan Couture … Ex-Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, who oversaw that ‘07 draft, likely will be on Chicago’s list of candidates to replace Stan Bowman. The Blues recently elevated him to vice president of hockey operations. The Blackhawks also likely will chat with Jeff Gorton, sacked from the front office in Boston when Chiarelli took over, and canned again last spring by the Rangers … Bad look by NESN, opting not to send its broadcast crew on the road, forcing Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley to call games off monitors in the network’s Watertown studio. Awash in money and still pinching pennies … NHL clubs, driven by a desire to control content and own the message, have severely rolled back the time players deal with media members not affiliated with the team. They’ve done it, in part, to make money by driving eyeballs to their websites, and also to coddle players and keep them from divulging too much. The Blackhawks, no doubt, were pleased that Beach didn’t take his story to the media amid that 2010 Stanley Cup run. Now they’re paying a dear price for keeping a lid on things. How’s that owning-the-message thing going?
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.