When former Chicago Blackhawks player Kyle Beach went public with allegations that he had been sexually abused by an assistant coach in 2010, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that he could tell the 31-year-old former NHLer was still in pain.
“I was horrified, it was emotional, I was distressed,” said Bettman referencing Beach’s first public interview with TSN’s Rick Westhead.
“I knew that he was suffering by just watching him…I was sorry as a personal matter that anybody, particularly him, had to go through what he was discussing.”
Bettman, who was speaking publicly for the first time on Nov. 1, was commissioner at the time of the alleged sexual abuse by then-Blackhawks assistant coach Brad Aldrich in 2010. Beach had reported the incident to team officials, many of whom were aware and have since stepped down from their various positions around the league with different organizations.
The NHL’s top boss said he had spoken with Beach after he went public on Oct. 27 and pledged to work with him on efforts to confront abuse and offered counselling resources to himself and his family.
“This certainly has been a disturbing and difficult week for all of us,” said Bettman in starting off his remarks. “I’m sorry for what he has been through and thought he has been courageous, especially this past week.”
The longtime commissioner of the NHL said that the findings of the report by an outside law firm were clear cut that there was inherent wrongdoing in how Beach’s situation was handled.
“It is clear that what happened was inappropriate, it was wrong on every level and it was not handled correctly by the Blackhawks organization,” said Bettman.
Bettman added that while he’s spoken with Beach and they are charting a way forward, he insisted that there is still work to be done on the matter.
In regards to sexual abuse and making the league more inclusive, Bettman said that he believes “the NHL has made considerable progress from where it was a decade ago.” He added that the Blackhawks’ ownership has been supportive of the NHL’s disciplinary measures.
“I am going to seek the assistance of outside professionals to evaluate the league’s efforts on these matters to make sure they’re not only adequate, but also most effective,” said Bettman.
Bettman and the NHL levied a $2 million fine against the Blackhawks for “the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response.”
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly joined Bettman during the media availability and noted that the league was not aware of the Aldrich incident at the time and did not know of his assault charges years later either. In 2013, a few years after he had left his Blackhawks job, Aldrich assaulted a Michigan high school hockey player between the ages of 16 and 18. He was sentenced to nine months in Houghton County Jail on criminal sexual conduct charges.
Daly said the NHL was given a heads up by the Blackhawks’ counsel in late December with respect to civil litigation that they had looked into and said “there was no merit.” Daly added that the league had not heard from Beach at this point.
Bettman said that he stood by his decision that then assistant general manager, Kevin Cheveldayoff who works with the Winnipeg Jets bore no responsibility and knew almost nothing of the incident. He added that Cheveldayoff’s day-to-day duties involved little to no player management.
Aldrich told investigators that the encounter with Beach was consensual. None of the allegations against Aldrich involving Beach have been proven in court.
The Blachawks have filed motions to dismiss two lawsuits filed against them relating to Aldrich, their former video coach.