Opinion: Blackhawks and NHL continue to fail sexual abuse victim, just as they did in 2010

·4 min read

The bravery of Kyle Beach stands in stark contrast to the cowardice and callousness of so many others.

Beach’s interview with TSN’s SportsCentre, in which he detailed an alleged sexual assault in 2010 by a Chicago Blackhawks video coach when he was a 20-year-old prospect, was difficult to watch. Raw. Emotional. The pain he’s suffered was visible, as he repeatedly choked back tears and struggled to find words.

“Until very recently, I did not talk about it, I did not discuss it, I didn’t think about it. And now that I’m beginning to heal, I begin to look back and it definitely had impacts on my life,” Beach said Wednesday night. “I did stupid things, I acted out, I snapped. … I did things that I never could imagine doing. I relied on alcohol, I relied on drugs and …

“I’m just so relieved with the news that came out (Tuesday), that I’ve been vindicated, and I can truly begin the healing process.”

Part of that, though, requires the people who could have – should have – protected Beach and at least one other victim of Brad Aldrich, to take responsibility for their failings.

And there’s little indication they have any interest in doing that.

Rather than firing general manager Stan Bowman, the Blackhawks allowed him to resign, and CEO Danny Wirtz has tripped over himself letting Bowman off the hook despite Bowman's knowledge of the alleged assault. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the faces of the Blackhawks franchise then and now, gave awkward statements Wednesday night in which they expressed sympathy for Beach – but also for Bowman and other now-departed executives.

Former Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who according to an independent investigation didn’t want anything to detract from Chicago’s first Stanley Cup run, has essentially lawyered up. That didn’t stop the Florida Panthers from allowing Quenneville to be behind the bench Wednesday night, coaching as if it was any other game while the rest of the NHL world reeled from Beach’s interview.

The Panthers did not make Quenneville available after the game, which raises the question of why they were OK with him coaching and representing their franchise while ducking accountability.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has yet to meet with former Blackhawks coach Joel Queenville and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, both of whom have been implicated of standing by when told of sexual abuse claims.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has yet to meet with former Blackhawks coach Joel Queenville and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, both of whom have been implicated of standing by when told of sexual abuse claims.

And what of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who one would think would be hypersensitive to cases like this after the hockey world was rocked by revelations of sexual abuse in Canada’s junior ranks? He’s taking his sweet old time, as if he’s mulling over a minor rules change rather than an Original Six franchise enabling a sexual predator.

He’s not meeting with Quenneville until Thursday afternoon, a full two days after the findings of the investigation were announced. He reportedly won’t talk to Kevin Cheveldayoff, who was assistant GM in Chicago in 2010 and is now the general manager of the Winnipeg Jets, until Monday.

He did fine the Blackhawks – a whopping $2 million. Even the hapless NFL managed better than that, slapping Washington Football Team owner Daniel Snyder with a $10 million penalty for the team’s toxic and misogynistic atmosphere.

“(The NHL) let me down and they’ve let others down as well,” Beach said. “But they continue to try and protect their name over the health and well-being of people who put their lives on the line every day to make the NHL what it is.”

Right now, it’s hard to see the NHL as anything except a good old boys club that doesn’t think sexual abuse is a big deal.

Aldrich’s predatory behavior was not a secret – in the moment or afterward. Yet the Blackhawks put their Stanley Cup ambitions above all else, ignoring Beach’s assault allegations until after they had won.

BEACH SPEAKS OUT: NHL 'let me down and they've let others down'

BLACKHAWKS REACT: 'Probably change that needed to happen'

Even then, the team didn’t fire Aldrich or even ostracize him. The Blackhawks allowed him to resign, and included him in the team’s celebrations.

They even let him have his day with the Stanley Cup.

No wonder, then, that Aldrich thought he was untouchable. He attempted to molest a Blackhawks intern. Three years later, he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old high school boy in Michigan.

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

That wasn’t Beach’s responsibility, though. That wasn’t his job. He was a 20-year-old trying to break into the NHL, petrified that Aldrich would derail his career.

But there is no excusing the others. Bowman, Quenneville, former Blackhawks CEO John McDonough – the list goes on – they all knew. They all could have done something, and they chose not to. They allowed lives to be ruined so they could add their names to the Stanley Cup.

The team’s slogan in 2010 was “One Goal.” The question now is, at what price?

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kyle Beach: Blackhawks, NHL continue to fail sexual abuse victim

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