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Winnipeg Jets Executive Vice President & General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was Chicago’s assistant GM in 2010 when Kyle Beach, a minor-league player, reported that he was sexually assaulted by video coach Brad Aldrich.JOHN WOODS/The Canadian Press

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Friday that the league will not discipline Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, saying he is not responsible for the Chicago Blackhawks’ handling of sexual assault allegations against a former assistant coach.

Cheveldayoff was Chicago’s assistant GM in 2010 when Kyle Beach, a minor-league player, reported that he was sexually assaulted by video coach Brad Aldrich. The club took no action at the time in fear that the allegations could derail its run in that year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

The organization’s failure to respond has already led to the resignations of Chicago GM Stan Bowman and Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville. The latter was the Hawks coach at the time the incident was reported.

Kyle Beach identified as John Doe 1 in Blackhawks sexual assault investigation

Cheveldayoff and Mark Chipman, the executive chairman and governor of the Jets, met with Bettman in his office in New York on Friday morning. The meeting was originally scheduled for Monday but was pushed up at the Jets’ request. Quenneville resigned on Thursday night after a separate meeting with Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

“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,” Bettman said in a statement released by the NHL. “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.”

Beach is slated to meet with Bettman and Donald Fehr, the leader of the NHL Players’ Association, via separate Zoom calls on Saturday. Susan Loggans, a lawyer representing Beach in his lawsuit, said Fehr’s time has been confirmed, and they were still working to finalize the schedule for the Bettman meeting.

Loggans said Bettman and Fehr each contacted her asking to meet with Beach.

“Kyle’s reaction was that he’s glad that they are paying attention to what he brought to their attention 10 years ago,” Loggans told The Associated Press. “So he’s very anxious to hear what they have to say.”

Beach, the Blackhawks’ first-round draft pick in 2008, complained he was sexually abused and threatened by Aldrich after he was called up from the minors to practise with the team during the 2010 playoffs. Senior executives discussed the complaint among themselves during a meeting on May 23, 2010 but delayed doing anything.

It wasn’t until three weeks later – after the team had won the Stanley Cup – that the complaint was forwarded to its human resources department. At that point, Aldrich was offered the opportunity to resign. He received a severance package, was allowed to take the Stanley Cup home, had his name engraved on the trophy and was given a recommendation letter by Quenneville.

Beach filed a lawsuit against the club in May. The organization faces a second lawsuit from a former high school student whom Aldrich later was convicted of assaulting in Michigan.

After the lawsuits were filed against them, the Hawks commissioned an investigation by the Chicago law firm Jenner & Block. Its shocking report was made public on Tuesday and has led to considerable fallout.

The investigation details how Chicago executives held a meeting to discuss the allegations an hour after the team secured a spot in the Stanley Cup final. Those present included club president John McDonough, senior director of hockey administration Al MacIsaac, Bowman, Quenneville, senior vice-president Jay Blunk, skills coach Jim Gary and Cheveldayoff.

Cheveldayoff issued a statement through the Jets’ communications department following Friday’s meeting.

“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,” Cheveldayoff said. “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.

“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 general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.”

Quenneville went on to win two more Stanley Cups as Chicago’s coach and has improved the Panthers’ fortunes since taking over behind the bench before the 2019-20 season. He was the league’s highest-paid coach at US$6-million a season when he stepped down.

Quenneville issued a statement late Thursday when he resigned. “With deep regret and contrition, I announce my resignation as head coach of the Florida Panthers. I want to express my sorrow for the pain this young man, Kyle Beach, has suffered.

“My former team the Blackhawks failed Kyle and I own my share of that. I want to reflect on how all of this happened and take the time to educate myself on ensuring hockey spaces are safe for everyone.”

On Friday, when asked if there was an active investigation into Aldrich’s actions while with the NHL club, the Chicago police department referred questions to the NHL. The league did not respond to a subsequent request.

With a report from The Associated Press