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The Case of Kyle Beach and the Broken NHL Culture

What happened to “we”?

C of Red by Resolute is licensed under CC BY 3.0

The Case of Kyle Beach and the Broken NHL Culture


Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Following a meeting with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday, Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville announced his resignation in light of his involvement in the Chicago Blackhawks’ sexual abuse case. It’s the latest domino to fall after the resignations of former Chicago executives Stan Bowman and Al MacIsaac this past week, who, along with Quenneville, were part of a group of Blackhawks personnel that received word of sexual assault committed by video assistant coach Brad Aldrich against player Kyle Beach in 2010 and took no immediate action.

According to investigators, Quenneville and company decided to table the matter as to not disrupt the team’s playoff run. Chicago went on to win it all in the weeks to follow, and let Aldrich quietly resign (while reportedly letting him participate in the championship celebrations) once the season ended.

The Aftermath

So Quenneville, Bowman, and MacIsaac are out, Chicago received a trivial $2 million fine from the league for their total botching of the situation, and the Blackhawks want Aldrich’s engraved name removed from the Stanley Cup. It’s hard to call these outcomes true justice given the appalling nature of Aldrich’s crimes and the equally gross indifference shown to Kyle Beach. But it’s likely that this will be the end of any punishments imposed by the league on Chicago, or Chicago unto themselves. Bettman even left the door open for Quenneville to return to coaching as long as certain conditions are met.

Its enough to make your head spin. Systemic inaction, cover ups, and performative discipline when the proverbial cat finds its way out of the bag. The actors in this story were seemingly motivated by self-interest and found ways to justify taking the path of least resistance. And as a hockey fan, that should strike a chord with you.

What are hockey players known for? Or better yet, how would they describe themselves? Think about a post-game presser with a coach, or a quick interview with a player between periods. What do you hear?

We.”

The word runs rampant, peppered into responses at an almost hilarious frequency. Ask a player to describe a goal he scores, and he will tell you how hard “we” worked on that play. No hesitation. It’s about the collective, always.

Those in the hockey world, players and coaches alike, have been touting these values for decades. Nobody is alone. Wins, losses, the good, the bad, it’s all experienced together. “Family” gets tossed around. It’s the culture they claim to have established and to live by. I don’t think any fans would disagree with this.

Then you look at what happened to Kyle Beach, and what DIDN’T happen in the days that followed the sexual assault, and it makes you wonder. What happened to “we”?

The coaches and executives of the Blackhawks learned that a staff member sexually assaulted a player and chose not to act. The NHLPA, upon receiving word of the assault, chose not to act. And players on the Blackhawks, while unclear on who exactly knew what about the situation, stood by and did nothing to stick up for their teammate once rumors started to swirl.

Beach even claims that fellow players teased him about it at practice, and that everyone in the locker room was aware of the situation.

What the heck is going on?

What happened to the supposed brotherhood that exists on a hockey team? How can rumors of the abuse of a teammate lead to no other action other than taunts and jeers? To think that Beach could not find any semblance of support from teammates once word of the situation got out is truly unbelievable, and completely unacceptable.

It’s clear there’s a dissonance here. The league culture on display in the case of Kyle Beach is far from the one we get fed by players and coaches on a nightly basis. And it makes one wonder, what really is the culture behind the scenes in the NHL? Actions (or lack there of) speak louder than words. And what actions have shown us here is the complete opposite of what the words want us to believe.

Ryan Kelly lives in Cambridge, MA, a stone's throw away from his beloved Boston teams. When he is not working as an editorial assistant, he is providing commentary on the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins for The Turf.

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