An independent investigation commissioned by the NHL Players’ Association found that Executive Director Don Fehr and others were not responsible for wrongdoing in failing to respond to a report that a Chicago Blackhawks player was sexually assaulted by an employee in 2010 was.
A law firm hired to investigate the Fehr and the union’s actions in 2010 and 2011 concluded misunderstandings and misunderstandings were behind the lack of action after Kyle Beach reported being assaulted by video coach Brad Aldrich to be.
“Ultimately, the failure to act on Beach’s reports is due to a failure in communications,” the company wrote to Cozen O’Connor a 20-page report released by the NHLPA on Friday. “We cannot identify any individual wrongdoing or institutional failure of policy or procedure by Fehr, NHLPA employees, or the (NHL/NHLPA-Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program) in handling Beach’s reports.”
The NHLPA Board of Directors was shown the report last week. The players voted for the release.
The union started The November inquest following an independent investigation into the Blackhawks’ abuse of the allegations and an interview by Beach with Canadian network TSN raised questions about what Fehr and others knew at the time and why they did not act. Beach wasn’t actually a member because he never played in an NHL game.
“I know I reported every single detail of an individual to the NHLPA that I was subsequently contacted,” Beach said on TSN. “I think two different people spoke to Don Fehr. And turning his back on the players when his only job is to protect the players at all costs, I don’t know how that can be your leader. I don’t know how he can be in charge.”
Fehr signed as an NHLPA advisor in the summer of 2010 after Aldrich resigned rather than face an investigation by the Blackhawks. Fehr was named executive director of the NHLPA in December of that year, a timing that complicated matters as the union was going through a period of transition.
The NHLPA investigation included reviews of approximately 20,000 emails and phone records from 2010 and 2011 and interviews with 11 witnesses, including Dr. Brian Shaw of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. Beach and an unidentified player who reported having inappropriate conversations with Aldrich both declined to be interviewed.
The firm acknowledged the difficulty of reconstructing events from 11 years ago, saying the findings were based on “understandably imperfect and incomplete memories by a few individuals that have not been corroborated by documentary evidence”.
The results The Blackhawks investigation rocked the team and led to sweeping changes in the front office and ramifications for the NHL. Longtime Chicago general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville, who was with Florida, resigned after they were found to have been informed of the allegations and failed to act appropriately. Aldrich told investigators the encounter was consensual.
Agent Ross Gurney told investigators he was certain he called Aldrich a “pedophile” or “sex offender” in a conversation with Fehr to warn him about Aldrich’s behavior after USA Hockey’s coach was accused of working at a tournament had been discontinued.
Fehr said he would have remembered it if it had happened. He repeatedly told investigators he did not recall being briefed on the incident when it happened. Investigators also noted that Fehr’s few comments on the allegations “consistent with his claim.”
Shaw told investigators he believes his conversation with Beach was a “privileged communication between a potential patient and a therapist” and that he could not reveal the content without the player’s consent, which he allegedly did not receive.
The company said it had provided the union’s General Counsel with a number of recommendations for additional action that could be taken to better manage similar situations in the future. The NHLPA said its board voted to keep those recommendations confident for now “because they require advancement by staff and evaluation by the board.”
Lawsuits brought by Beach, then known as John Doe, and a former student Aldrich convicted of assault in Michigan brought the scandal to light last year. Beach’s lawsuit was settled. The former student’s lawsuit was dismissed in December by what the court called an “agreement or agreement.”
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