Kyle Beach apologized on Wednesday.
Seriously. He did.
“I’m sorry,” Beach said in an interview with TSN’s Rick Westhead. “I’m sorry I didn’t do more, when I could, to make sure it didn’t happen to (someone else).”
Hockey didn’t do anything but break Beach’s heart and his spirit. And he’s the one apologizing? To another victim of the man who abused him.
If you haven’t heard, Beach is the John Doe 1 at the centre of the sexual assault scandal and lawsuit that have rocked the NHL, in general, and the Chicago Blackhawks, in particular. Beach chose to end his anonymity on Wednesday, thus the interview with Westhead, one of the reporters — Katie Strang of The Athletic is another — who has been vigorously reporting this story from the beginning.
In short, Beach, then 20, was allegedly assaulted by Brad Aldrich, at the time a video coach with the Blackhawks, who, despite management being aware of what had happened, was allowed to stay on the job while the Blackhawks won the 2010 Stanley Cup.
Beach, now 31, is a native of North Vancouver, who plays in Germany and calls Kelowna home. He grew up there and his parents live and work there. He played four seasons in the WHL, splitting 251 regular-season games between the Everett Silvertips, Lethbridge Hurricanes and Spokane Chiefs. He was a big, aggressive forward, one of those guys who is despised by everyone but his teammates. In those four WHL seasons, he put up 273 points, including 134 goals, and 773 penalty minutes. The WHL hasn’t seen a player like Beach since, well, Beach.
The Blackhawks selected him with the 11th overall pick of the NHL’s 2008 draft. But he never played an NHL game.
Regan Bartel, the veteran radio voice of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, tweeted on Wednesday afternoon: “I often asked (Beach) in interviews what happened in Chicago. Why did he never play a game with the Hawks as a first-round pick. He always stuck to the script knowing he had to hide a deep secret . . . up until today.”
Beach spent time with the Blackhawks’ then-AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, and the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack. Then there was season after season in Europe, where he is playing a second season with EHC Erfurt in Germany.
Beach scored 52 goals in 68 games with Spokane in 2009-10, then joined Rockford where he showed some promise by scoring three times in four playoff games.
The Blackhawks brought him up for their playoff run to serve as one of the Black Aces, players who practise in order to be ready to step in should a team run into injuries. It was then, on May 8 or 9, when he said, according to the lawsuit, that Aldrich struck.
“I felt like I was alone and there was nothing I could do and nobody I could turn to for help,” Beach told Westhead. “And I didn’t know what to do as a 20-year-old. I would never dream, or you could never imagine being put in this situation, by somebody who’s supposed to be there to help you and to make you a better hockey player and a better person and continue to build your career. (I was) just scared and alone with no idea what to do.”
Beach — remember that he was 20 years of age, trying to find his way as a professional athlete — went to James Gary, then the Blackhawks’ mental skills coach. One thing led to another and, according to a report from the law firm Jenner & Block that conducted an investigation into this mess, there was a meeting that involved general manager Stan Bowman, Al MacIsaac, then the vice-president of hockey operations, then-president and CEO John McDonough, head coach Joel Quenneville, assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and Jay Blunk, an executive vice-president.
Except that it was May 23, 2010, and the Blackhawks were in the Western Conference final against the San Jose Sharks, and, yes, this was going to be a distraction if word got out, so . . .
Flash forward to the summer of 2021. The cat is out of the bag. Quenneville, now a couple of years into a contract as the head coach of the Florida Panthers, tells The Associated Press: “I first learned of these allegations through the media earlier this summer.”
On Wednesday, Beach responded to that by telling Westhead that “there’s absolutely no way that he can deny knowing it.”
Beach added: “I witnessed meetings, right after I reported it to James Gary, that were held in Joel Quenneville’s office. If this had been reported to someone other than John McDonough, or Joel Quenneville or Stan Bowman that didn’t have skin in the game of winning a Stanley Cup, it would have been dealt with and would have protected all of the survivors that came after me.”
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks went on to win that Stanley Cup. As for Aldrich, well, here’s what Beach told Westhead . . .
“It was like (Aldrich’s) life was the same as the day before. Same every day. And then when they won, to see him paraded around lifting the Cup, at the parade, at the team pictures, at celebrations, it made me feel like nothing. It made me feel like I didn’t exist. It made me feel like, that I wasn’t important and . . . it made me feel like he was in the right and I was wrong. And that’s also what “Doc” Gary told me, that it was my fault because I put myself in that situation. And the combination of these and him being paraded around, then letting him take the Stanley Cup to a high school with kids after they knew what had happened. There are not words to describe it . . . there really isn’t.”
The Blackhawks, who won the Stanley Cup on June 9, allowed Aldrich to take part in the hoopla despite his having left the organization about a week later and despite his being around the team was in violation of his separation agreement. He had been given a choice — resign or take a leave of absence while the situation was investigated. Of course, he resigned.
Aldrich later was convicted of fourth-degree sexual assault from an incident that involved a Michigan high school student. Beach’s apology on Wednesday was directed towards this student, Beach feeling that had he only done more that abusive situation could have been avoided.
“I’m sorry I didn’t do more when I could,” Beach told Westhead. “To make sure it didn’t happen to him. To protect him. But I also want to say thank you to him. Because when I decided after a teammate asked me about it when I was playing overseas, and I decided to Google Brad Aldrich’s name, that’s when I found out about the Michigan individual, the Michigan teen. And because of what happened to him, it gave the power and the sense of urgency to take action. To make sure it wouldn’t happen to anybody else. So I’m sorry and I thank you. And I hope at some point, down the road, if he’s open to it, I would love to meet him because, unfortunately, we share something in common that’s going to be a part of us for the rest of our lives.”
If only some others had done more . . .
It’s worth noting that Beach also went to the NHLPA in his search for help. Don Fehr, the NHLPA’s executive director, issued an apology on Wednesday night, saying that the association was guilty of a “serious failure.”
Like Quenneville, Cheveldayoff, now the Winnipeg Jets’ GM, denied knowing anything, despite having been in on that May 23, 2010 meeting. On July 22, 2021, Cheveldayoff issued a statement that included: “I had no knowledge of any allegations involving Mr. Aldrich until asked if I was aware of anything just prior to the conclusion of his employment with the Chicago Blackhawks.”
Quenneville was behind the Panthers’ bench on Wednesday night as they ran their record to 7-0-0. Yes, it’s the best start in franchise history and that’s really important, don’t you know. Quenneville didn’t address the media after the game, as NHL coaches normally do.
Cheveldayoff? He’s still on the job, too.
Both men should have been suspended, at least until the NHL completes whatever investigation it is going to conduct. But, then, that’s not hockey’s way, is it?
Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, is to meet with Quenneville today (Thursday) and Cheveldayoff on Monday. Beach isn’t holding his breath, and who can blame him?
“The NHL is inclusive,” Beach told Westhead. “The NHL includes everybody, and they let me down and they’ve let down others, as well. But they continue to try and protect their name over the health and the well-being of the people who put their lives on the line every day to make the NHL what it is. I hope through and through that Gary Bettman takes this seriously, and that he does his due diligence, that he talks to not only them, but Stan Bowman, John McDonough and anybody else that has information to offer before he makes his decision because they already let me down. They wouldn’t investigate for me, so why would they now?”
So where does this leave us?
Well, Bowman is gone from the Blackhawks and from USA Hockey. He was to have been the general manager of the American entry at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. McDonough is gone, too. By the end of his run, he was the Blackhawks’ president and CEO.
But Quenneville is coaching and not talking. Cheveldayoff is GMing and not talking.
And don’t forger that it was just a few short months ago, with the Chicago pot roiling, when the Montreal Canadiens used a first-round draft pick to take defenceman Logan Mailloux, despite his having been convicted in an ugly sexual incident in Sweden in 2020.
You are free to wonder if the NHL and hockey will ever learn.
Sheldon Kennedy . . . Theo Fleury . . . Todd Holt . . . Greg Gilhooly . . . Jay Macaulay . . . Jeffrey Walker . . . Frank Pietrangelo . . . Mike Sacks . . . Kelly Gee . . . Brent Cary . . . Chris Jensen . . . Benjamin Cole . . . Daniel Carrillo . . . Kyle Beach . . .
Those are only some of the men who have told their stories publicly. I would suggest that there are dozens and dozens — if not hundreds — of others who have chosen to try and live with their secrets. Like Kennedy and Fleury and Carrillo and, yes, Beach they self-medicate as they try to tame their inner demons.
It goes on and on and on.
Take any one of the stories written about Beach yesterday . . . remove his name . . . substitute with Kennedy’s name . . .
Then remind yourself that almost 25 years have passed since Graham James was charged with sexually assaulting Kennedy.
That was on Nov. 22, 1996.
Now ask yourself this: “How much has changed?”
The first three paragraphs of a story written by Kim Zarzour of YorkRegion.com:
“They were spirited and eager as they gathered at the Newmarket hockey rink, a league of older men, all double-vaccinated and keen to finally get back to a sport they’d put on ice since the start of the pandemic.
“Now they are recovering from COVID-19, one of their teammates dead, wondering if this tragedy could have been averted.
“ ‘It’s just strange,’ mused Brian Dunn of Thornhill. ‘Fifteen guys who played separate nights, different change rooms, days apart, one tragic death. We vacillate between absolutely pissed off and sad . . . I lost my best friend.’ ”
As the headline on the website reads: COVID-19 sweeps through Newmarket men’s hockey league.
Zarzour’s story is right here.
The Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association, which is headquartered in Burnaby, B.C., has asked its teams to dump the post-game “bare-hand handshake, the glove-on handshake and the glove-on fist bump.” . . . In a memo from Rick Grant, its president, the association has told its teams that after congratulating your goaltender, players should “move to your blue line and face your opponents, who will be lining up on their blue line, and begin a stick tap. Then face the on-ice officials and repeat.” . . . The PCAHA oversees minor hockey in the Lower Mainland of B.C., from Hope to the Sunshine Coast. Its jurisdiction includes about 19,700 players, 6,000 team officials, 2,100 on-ice officials and an untold number of volunteers. . . .
There were four WHL games on Wednesday night . . .
In Calgary, the Winnipeg Ice ran its season-opening winning streak to 11 games with a 3-2 victory over the Hitmen. . . . F Conor Geekie (4) broke a 2-2 tie at 16:06 of the third period. . . . D Blake Heward scored his first WHL goal and added an assist for Calgary (4-4-0), which had won its previous three games. . . . The Ice lost F Connor McClennon to a boarding major and game misconduct at 1:21 of the first period. . . . The Ice (11-0-0) is scheduled to meet the Oil Kings in Edmonton on Friday night. If you are into such, the Ice and Oil Kings (6-2-1) are second and third, respectively, in the CHL’s weekly rankings. . . .
In Portland, the Seattle Thunderbirds scored the game’s first three goals en route to a 6-4 victory over the Winterhawks. . . . Seattle (5-2-1) scored three times before the game was 16 minutes old. . . . F Tyson Kozak score twice (2) and added an assist for the Winterhawks (3-5-1), who have lost three in a row. . . .
In Prince George, G Tyler Brennan blocked 31 shots to lead the Cougars to a 4-0 victory over the Victoria Royals. . . . Brennan posted his first shutout of this season and the second of his career. . . . F Carter MacAdams (3) and F Blake Eastman (4) each scored twice. . . . The Cougars (5-3-0) have won five in a row, all of them against the Royals. Prince George outscored Victoria, 20-5, in those five games. . . . What was to have been a six-game series was shortened by a game when inclement weather prevented the Royals from getting to Prince George to play on Tuesday night. . . . Victoria, which has lost eight in a row, now is 1-9-0. . . .
In Saskatoon, F Tristen Robins scored three times and added an assist, leading the Blades to a 6-2 victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors. . . . Saskatoon opened up a 6-0 lead, with Robins scoring at 2:10, 6:10 and 8:26 of the second period. His third goal ended a five-goal explosion in the span of 6:16. . . . Robins leads the WHL in assists (12) and points (19). . . . F Kyle Crnkovic had a goal (7) and three assists. . . . The Blades (7-1-1) have points in eight straight (7-0-1). . . . The Warriors (3-6-0) have lost four in a row.
JUNIOR JOTTINGS: The WHL will hold its 2021 and 2022 drafts about five months apart. Due to the pandemic, the 2021 draft, which normally would have been held in May, was bumped to Dec. 9. It is for players born in 2006. On Wednesday, the league announced that its 2022 draft, for the 2007 age group, has been scheduled for May 19. . . .
The junior B Summerland Steam of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League has signed Mark MacMillan, 29, as its general manager and head coach. The Penticton native replaces Nick Deschenes. The team announced on Oct. 19 that the organization and Deschenes had “mutually agreed to part ways, effective immediately.” The Steam was 4-1-0 at the time. . . .
F Jace Weir of the Red Deer Rebels has been suspended for four games after taking a cross-checking major and game misconduct in a game against the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings on Oct. 23.
There was an interesting development involving a Canadian ECHL franchise on Wednesday when the City of St. John’s, Nfld., tossed the Newfoundland Growlers out of Mile One, the arena that it calls home. . . . With a week before its scheduled home-opener, the ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs are headed to the Ontario city to play at least its first six home games in the Coca-Cola Coliseum until the dispute plays itself out one way or another. . . . The Growlers are owned by Deacon Sports and Entertainment, which is headed up by Dean MacDonald. . . . From VOCM.com: “St. John’s Sports and Entertainment and Deacon recently signed a three-year lease but has been told that the employees find the workplace situation with the Growlers difficult. The city says there will be a workplace investigation by a third-party investigator. Mayor Danny Breen says employees have brought forward allegations of disrespectful workplace conduct directed towards staff at SJSEL. No other details will be provided.”
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