The NHL is not in a good place, and that’s good. For too long have victims of high-ranking members in NHL front offices gone unseen and unheard.
The biggest storyline surrounding the NHL currently is the Chicago Blackhawks’ series of cover-ups regarding the sexual assault of a former player in 2010.
As the investigation has progressed, several current Blackhawks front office members have been ousted and attention has turned to multiple other NHL higher-ups, specifically, people who were involved with the Blackhawks’ organization while the Aldrich situation was going on in 2010, meaning that after the NHL investigated Winnipeg Jets’ GM, and Blackhawks’ assistant GM in 2010, Kevin Cheveldayoff, for playing a role in the decisions made by the organization involving Aldrich and the former player that Aldrich assaulted, we would finally see Cheveldayoff receive his comeuppance...or not.
As of yesterday morning, the NHL has determined that Cheveldayoff was “not responsible for the improper decisions made by the Chicago Blackhawks related to the Brad Aldrich matter in 2010.” Therefore, Cheveldayoff will receive no disciplinary action. According to the report, the NHL has determined that Cheveldayoff’s involvement in the May 23, 2010 meeting “was extremely limited in scope and substance. In fact, in the course of the investigation, most of the participants in the May 23 meeting did not initially recall that Cheveldayoff was even present.” So, that’s good news for the Winnipeg Jets franchise, but this ruling was a long time coming and there is still a lot that needs to be unpacked regarding this situation. While Cheveldayoff may be off the hook, the NHL sure isn’t.
Unfortunately for the NHL, and fortunately for the sake of human decency, that’s not all the bad press they’ve had to endure recently. Former minor league assistant for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jarrod Skalde, sued the Penguins last year, claiming that the former coach of the Penguins’ AHL affiliate, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Clark Donatelli, molested Skalde’s wife, Erin, twice during a road trip in 2018. The lawsuit is back in the news now.
After hearing of the incident, Jarrod Skalde claims he reported it to Bill Guerin (currently the Minnesota Wild GM, but GM of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and assistant GM for the Penguins in 2018). Guerin is alleged in the suit to not only have asked Skalde to keep the reasoning behind Donatelli’s termination quiet, but also reprimanded Skalde for reporting the incident altogether. Skalde was let go from the Penguins organization in 2020. While the Penguins claim that Skalde’s termination was due to “pandemic-related” staff cuts, Skalde believes it was a result of his coming forward with the allegations of his wife’s sexual assault.
Of course, Guerin also has connections to the Chicago Blackhawks’ scandal, as Guerin is currently serving as the assistant GM for the U.S. Olympic men’s ice hockey team. The GM, Stan Bowman, resigned from his position as the Olympic team’s GM and as head of hockey operations in Chicago earlier this week amid the Aldrich cover-up scandal.
Currently, the U.S. Center for SafeSport is conducting an investigation into the claims against Guerin. According to the lawsuit filed by the Skaldes, after Jarrod Skalde confronted Donatelli in May of 2019, Donatelli appeared apologetic and promised to come forward to Guerin, but never did so. It goes on to say that it was only after Skalde went to Guerin personally that the situation drew any attention from the Penguins’ organization, even if Guerin allegedly asked Skalde to keep the incident under wraps. The Penguins made a statement to the Associated Press on Thursday claiming that the situation was handled immediately, but their statement also seemingly throws shade at Skalde for “[delaying] seven months before [making] a complaint.”
The Penguins attempted to motion for arbitration over this lawsuit, but the motion was denied on September 30. The lawsuit will go to court. At least our justice system is getting that part right.
But that’s not the only lawsuit the NHL is facing!
The father of the late Steve Montador, Paul, is filing a lawsuit against the NHL for the wrongful death of his son, claiming that the NHL promoted a culture of violence and downplayed the severity of the brain damage Steve Montador received while playing in the league.
Paul Montador claims that while playing in the NHL, his son received “thousands of sub-concussive brain traumas and multiple concussions, many of which were undiagnosed.” Despite all the brain trauma Montador suffered during his playing years, Montador was never required to sit out multiple games from the league. This created a controversy regarding how the NHL handles concussions compared to other brutal sports such as boxing, which prevents boxers who get knocked out from participating in further fights for a length of at least 60-69 days.
While the NHL has made an effort to rid the sport of fighting, Montador’s lawsuit claims that the NHL stated they would study the issue of concussions and brain damage among its players back in 1997, but once the study’s findings were released in 2011, the damage was downplayed in order for the NHL to continue marketing and profiting from players’ fighting.
I’m not sure the NHL has ever faced as many serious public relations disasters as it is currently going through. The league has had its fair share of scandals over the years, but they are being bombarded with scandal after lawsuit after lawsuit it seems, and it’s just great. The NHL has clearly been attempting to avoid any bad public relations by skirting these lawsuits and investigations as best they can. However, they’ve piled up. You can only stretch a rubber band so far before it snaps, and boy is it snapping.