Aren’t those supposedly independent self-investigations just so handy? The NHL Players’ Association released a report Friday (late on a Friday afternoon on a holiday weekend, more specifically) indicating that NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr did nothing wrong in handling reports of sexual assault allegations by a member of the Blackhawks organizatoin.
Former Blackhawks player Kyle Beach, who courageously came forward last year as John Doe in the case against Brad Aldrich, accused the then-video coach of sexual abuse. The Blackhawks organization knew about it in 2010 but chose not to take any action until the Stanley Cup run was finished. Aldrich was asked to retire in that postseason, and Beach sued the club in 2021. The lawsuit was settled out of court in December.
Despite Fehr having been contacted multiple times about concerns related to Aldrich after Beach spoke to NHLPA representatives regarding the abuse he had faced, this independent investigation that Fehr himself commissioned found that “we cannot identify any individual wrongdoing or institutional failures of policy or procedure by either Fehr, NHLPA personnel, or the SABH program concerning the handling of Beach’s reports.”
Beach himself spoke out against Fehr’s inaction in November, telling reporters, “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. I don’t know how he can be in charge. If that’s what he’s going to do when a player comes to you and tells you something, whether it be abuse, whether it be drugs, whether it be anything, you’re supposed to have the players’ backs and they definitely didn’t have mine.”
In light of that statement, this part of the report’s findings is particularly rich. Presented for your consideration: “Beach’s warnings about Aldrich were not addressed on account of miscommunication and misunderstanding, rather than any individual or systemic failure.”
Miscommunication and misunderstanding, of course. Certainly no individual’s mistakes or systemic suppression prevented Beach from getting the help he sought. No one meant to mess up — it was just an accident, guys! All clear! Just a misunderstanding about sexual assault!
Frustrating, yet not exactly unexpected. Beach has been failed by those meant to protect him yet again by their refusal to take any accountability for not following through for him when he was a 20-year-old rookie.