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This article was published 28/10/2021 (211 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
LOS ANGELES – Despite a game to be played later that night, a more pressing issue took over following the Winnipeg Jets morning skate at the Staples Center on Thursday.
It had been fewer than 24 hours since the hockey world was sent a sizable jolt, one that rocked it to its very foundations when Kyle Beach revealed his identity and bared his soul in an emotional interview with TSN's Rick Westhead. Beach was at the centre of a recently published Chicago Blackhawks internal investigation into allegations of sexual abuse in 2010 by then-video coach Brad Aldrich.
For nearly 26 minutes, Beach, now 31 and shed of his John Doe moniker currently being used in court documents, shared painstaking details of his experience with the Blackhawks as a 20-year-old, first-round prospect. He spoke emotionally about his time in Chicago, often breaking down into tears as he talked about being ridiculed by teammates after they had heard about the abuse, how nothing was done for him despite informing members of the club's leadership group and the damning effects that still haunt him to this day.
"I don’t think you have to have children to be shook by that. But if you do, just the pain of it," Jets head coach Paul Maurice told the Free Press. "I certainly think of Kyle, but I think of the family. How would you feel if that was your child? Then I don’t know that I have words after. It’s tragic the event happened."
"It's unfortunate that you have to use a human being as an example to learn from it," added Blake Wheeler to the Free Press. "Now that we are in this place, it's an opportunity for the league, for pro sports as a whole, to examine how we do things and hopefully we can learn and grow."
Josh Morrissey said he took the time to watch the interview and was struck by the courage Beach showed in sharing his story. Multiple times he encouraged others to watch it and listen to the pain in his voice.
"It’s players speaking out like Kyle and like players have in the past that creates change, it forces change, it forces conversation." – Josh Morrissey
Morrissey called it a tragedy to the sport he grew up loving and shaped him as a person. He expressed the importance of increased education around sexual abuse, not just for hockey players but for everyone, adding he feels Beach's interview will have far-reaching effects in the game.
"It’s players speaking out like Kyle and like players have in the past that creates change, it forces change, it forces conversation," the Jets veteran defenceman said.
"I’m very grateful that my experience has been nothing but extremely positive and I’ve felt nothing but respected and treated well. But I think that a large part of that can be attributed to players in the past speaking up and talking about the most difficult of circumstances."
Morrissey added: "It creates change for the next generation, the next players."
Adam Lowry had yet to watch the whole interview but did catch glimpses of it online. He plans to eventually see it in its entirety, understanding the importance of viewing Beach's raw emotion to get the full effect of his troubling story.
"With my dealings and my time in the league, I can’t comment on this incident in particular or how it’s been handled. I don’t think it’s for me to be the judge or the jury in that instance." – Adam Lowry on whether PA executive director Donald Fehr should continue to represent players
The Jets centre noted he's also read parts of the report from the Blackhawks investigation and while he feels horrible for what Beach went through, his hope is that by coming forward he can eventually find peace. He also believes that by Beach identifying himself, it will help create a safer place for victims who might be facing the same demons.
"It’s certainly good that Kyle felt comfortable to step forward," Lowry said. "Hopefully it’s one of those situations where you now have a face to it and people are going to feel a little more comfortable if they have gone through a similar situation. Or, if there are instances now where people are going to feel more comfortable talking to teammates. It just kind of makes it hit a little closer to home now that you have a face behind it."
Lowry is also the Jets' main representative for the NHL Players' Association. Beach said in his interview he had informed NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr of the abuse, but nothing was done to help him. Fehr admitted in a statement shortly after the interview Beach had been failed by the entire hockey system, including the NHLPA, and he pledged to be better.
Lowry was asked by the Free Press if he felt Fehr, given his failure to protect Beach, should continue to represent the players.
"I can really only speak to my relationship with Chevy over the years and what I’ve seen from him. So, I’ll just keep it at that." – Blake Wheeler
"With my dealings and my time in the league, I can’t comment on this incident in particular or how it’s been handled," Lowry said. "I don’t think it’s for me to be the judge or the jury in that instance."
Then there was the uncomfortable truth that Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was named in the report, as one of seven members of the Blackhawks leadership group in attendance at a meeting that discussed the serious allegations against Aldrich. Cheveldayoff has been under heat for his role since the release of the investigation's report, and will meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in New York on Friday to further discuss his involvement.
Wheeler, who is the Jets captain and is viewed as an somwhat of an extension of management for how much influence he appears to have within the team, was asked if he felt Cheveldayoff's involvement could or should be a distraction to the team.
"I can really only speak to my relationship with Chevy over the years and what I’ve seen from him. So, I’ll just keep it at that," Wheeler said. "I’ve had to lean on Chevy in the past personally. He’s been there for me in the past. So, those are the experiences I can speak about. And when you’re talking about a man and a human, my first-hand information with Kevin Cheveldayoff has been nothing but support and him having my back. I think that there are professionals who are pros in this area who are doing a really good job of trying to uncover all of the facts and I think we should just let them do their job."
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.