As the fallout continues from the findings of an independent report into alleged sexual abuse by a Chicago Blackhawks video coach over a decade ago, much of the discussion has turned to the culture of hockey, and how it was possible for the situation to be pushed under the rug for so long.
Toronto lawyer, former hockey player, and sexual assault survivor Greg Gilhooly told 680 CJOB that while the culture is slowly changing, there’s still plenty of work to be done.
Gilhooly, a star goalie as a young athlete in Winnipeg, was a victim of hockey coach and serial abuser Graham James in the late 1970s — derailing his hockey career and causing him decades of trauma.
The details in the Blackhawks report, he said, paint senior Chicago officials in a terrible light, and that there’s no doubt top executives like longtime general manager Stan Bowman had to lose their jobs as a result.
“Nobody in that room, on hearing that information, thought about the victim,” Gilhooly said.
“Every person in that room thought about two things: winning the Stanley Cup — what was best for the team, to win the Stanley Cup — and ‘what do I do to protect myself and advance my career.'”
Gilhooly said the issue of sexual abuse in hockey — through cases like his and many others — has become well-known, and if the Blackhawks brass really wanted to save their jobs, they should have come forward immediately.
“Enough of this stuff has happened, where an executive knows, out of pure self-interest, that (now) ‘the right thing to do for my career and for my team is to come forward.'”
In addition to the resignation of Bowman — the GM who guided the team to three Stanley Cup championships — and other front-office figures, the scandal has also impacted former Blackhawks staff, including Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who served as assistant GM with Chicago at the time of the incident.
The Blackhawks were also fined $2 million by the NHL for mishandling the accusations.
Gilhooly said there are varying degrees of culpability among Blackhawks executives, and that things may not have been so clear at the time as they are now, in retrospect, with all of the details becoming public.
“I do have some sympathy for a guy like Kevin Cheveldayoff, who was not the most senior person in the room when the information came to light,” Gilhooly said.
The Jets GM, along with former Chicago head coach — now behind the bench for the Florida Panthers — Joel Quenneville, will be meeting with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in the near future.
In a statement Tuesday, Cheveldayoff said, “I have shared everything I know about this matter as part of my participation in Jenner & Block’s investigation. That is reflected in today’s investigation report.
“Further, I look forward to my discussion with Commissioner Bettman at the soonest possible date to continue to cooperate fully with the National Hockey League. I will reserve any further comment until after that conversation has been conducted.”
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault… help is available at the following Manitoba crisis lines:
Klinic Crisis Line: (204) 786-8686
Seniors abuse support line: 1-888-896-7183
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868