Maurice optimistic about outcome

Jets head coach expects NHL will learn and change as result of Blackhawks scandal

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SAN JOSE – It's the story that has followed the Winnipeg Jets throughout their three-game swing through California, and it was once again the topic of conversation as they arrived in San Jose Friday ahead of their game against the Sharks Saturday night.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/10/2021 (403 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

SAN JOSE – It’s the story that has followed the Winnipeg Jets throughout their three-game swing through California, and it was once again the topic of conversation as they arrived in San Jose Friday ahead of their game against the Sharks Saturday night.

The latest news in what’s been a months-long focus into the sexual assault allegations against former Chicago Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich in 2010 was the NHL’s announcement Friday that it would not be handing down any form of punishment to Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.

Documented in a 107-page report following an internal investigation by the Blackhawks that was released earlier this week, Cheveldayoff, who was the assistant general manager at the time, was confirmed to be one of seven men at a May 2010 meeting that discussed serious allegations against Aldrich made by a former player, Kyle Beach. Among them included unwanted advances made by Aldrich on Beach.

John Woods / The Canadian Press files Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice (centre).

Following a meeting with the league in New York on Friday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman absolved Cheveldayoff of any significant role in the decision-making process by the Blackhawks leadership group in how they handled Aldrich. That makes Cheveldayoff the only member in that meeting to still be employed by an NHL club.

Based on the report, Aldrich was allowed to stay with the team as they completed their championship run, was part of the Stanley Cup celebrations that also included Beach and was allowed to quietly resign afterwards. Three years later, Aldrich was charged and jailed after he pleaded guilty of criminal sexual conduct with a teenager.

“While on some level, it would be easiest to paint everyone with any association to this terrible matter with the same broad brush, I believe that fundamental fairness requires a more in-depth analysis of the role of each person,” said Commissioner Gary Bettman in a league statement on Friday.

“Kevin Cheveldayoff was not a member of the Blackhawks senior leadership team in 2010, and I cannot, therefore, assign to him responsibility for the Club’s actions, or inactions. He provided a full account of his degree of involvement in the matter, which was limited exclusively to his attendance at a single meeting, and I found him to be extremely forthcoming and credible in our discussion.”

Cheveldayoff has yet to publicly speak on the matter. He addressed the Jets players and staff in Los Angeles on Thursday ahead of his meeting with Bettman.

“I don’t know if it needed to happened but it was a great talk and this has always been a great place, in terms of the dynamics in the room — how you’re treated by the staff, how you treat the staff, how the players treat each other,” Jets forward Andrew Copp said.

“It’s really been A-plus for me since I’ve been here, so nothing new was coming out of that. It was just a good reminder that we’ve got each other’s backs.”

The plan is for Cheveldayoff, alongside True North executive chairman Mark Chipman, to address the media sometime next week. Cheveldayoff wasn’t completely silent, releasing a third prepared statement Friday afternoon.

“First and most importantly, I want to express my support of and empathy for Kyle Beach and all he has had to endure since 2010. He was incredibly brave coming forward to tell his story. We can all use his courage as an inspiration to do a better job of making hockey a safer space for anyone who wants to play the game,” the statement read.

“Further, I want to express my gratitude to the National Hockey League for the opportunity to meet with Commissioner Gary Bettman, in person, and directly share my role in and recollection of events while I was Assistant GM of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.”

Cheveldayoff and Chipman were both unavailable to share further comment, so the onus fell once again on head coach Paul Maurice to tackle questions in the aftermath Friday’s news. What transpired was a 15-minute back and forth with the Free Press, covering several angles from the announcement about the Jets GM.

Maurice made it clear on multiple occasions he believed Cheveldayoff’s account of events and that he trusted the men in charge of the investigation. He seemed to think the investigators – Jenner & Block, a Chicago-based law firm – were also in charge of handing out punishment, referencing a few times their expertise on the subject. But it was the Blackhawks and NHL that ultimately determined any additional action.

The Jets coach said he hadn’t talked to Cheveldayoff about specifics of the report or of the events from more than a decade ago in order to respect the ongoing investigation process. He also said he hadn’t read the report, citing time restraints, an apprehension based on the value he viewed in reading the report and a notable level of discomfort when it comes to topics such as sexual abuse.

“Because I am not going to get from reading that report, an in-depth understanding of what happened,” he said. “I wasn’t there, and the truth is I have a very, very difficult time reading those kinds of things. That’s a personal admission. I have very difficult time watching movies when those events take place on the screen. I don’t watch them.”

Maurice seemed bothered by his answer, fearing it might come off as insensitive or suggest he was “being casual” about the serious events that took place. He clarified his position a few times to be sure he wasn’t being misunderstood, adding that the video of Beach, who revealed his identity for the first time in an emotional interview with TSN, is where he saw the most value to learn.

“I don’t think that it makes me an expert, and I don’t think it qualifies my opinion. I’m not gonna be able to reach out to Kyle through my reading of that report and offer that young man anything. I know it’s serious,” Maurice said.

“And my feeling is on that, is I learned everything I needed to learn in that interview. That’s material to me. When a meeting took place or what was said or the….that is not material. That interview, for me, tells me everything… that is mindful to a man in my position now, who has players under them and staff under them. That had an impact far more than me reading the report. Given one of the two, I’m far more enlightened today from the interview than I would ever be from that report.”

Maurice also noted it would have been easy to get rid of the lowest-ranked member of the management team, that they often become the fall guy. He was then reminded that it was, in part, because Cheveldayoff was the lowest-ranked member of the management team for why he was spared additional punishment.

He was then asked if he thought that set a dangerous precedent, that so long as you’re not the most senior player in the room you don’t share the same responsibility to report such matters?

“No, it sends a message that if you’re culpable in these events, you will be held accountable,” Maurice said. “And if you are not, you will not be.”

He added: “Because – and again, I am not an expert in this – but I would say to you that all victims of this have to be believed. But in order to have proper and due process, the other side has to be believed as well.”

It was when asked if the role of assistant general manager, though important in the day-to-day operation of a team, doesn’t possess the authority to go against their bosses when it comes to serious matters such as this, did Maurice take a calculated shot at the Blackhawks. He thought for a second before delivering his message, his voice deepening as he spoke.

“I’m not sure I fully appreciate the structure of the Chicago Blackhawks organization and how it worked,” he said. “And I think there’s something to that.”

Finally, Maurice was asked about the people back in Winnipeg and whether he expected the issue to linger further despite Bettman making his final decision.

“I expect it to do wonderful things for the National Hockey League. I do,” he said, noting he hoped the league will learn from what happened. “I think the league’s a different place.”

jeff.hamilton@freepress.mb.ca twitter: @jeffkhamilton

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton
Multimedia producer

After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.

History

Updated on Saturday, October 30, 2021 9:14 AM CDT: Corrects typo in Maurice quote.

Updated on Saturday, October 30, 2021 9:22 AM CDT: Corrects typo in nutgraf.

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