Skip to main content

The NHL Players’ Association says it will commission an independent review of the union’s response to sexual-assault allegations made by Chicago Blackhawks draft pick Kyle Beach against a former assistant coach.

The NHLPA announced the decision Thursday night after its 32-member board voted in favour of a resolution following executive director Don Fehr’s recommendation on a call earlier this week.

A third-party report commissioned by the Blackhawks released Oct. 26 detailed how senior leaders within the organization largely ignored Beach’s accusation that he had been assaulted by Brad Aldrich in May, 2010, for a three-week period before the club won its first Stanley Cup since 1961.

The report, which came in response to lawsuits by Beach and a former high-school student Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan after leaving the Blackhawks, also revealed Fehr was contacted twice about allegations connected to Chicago’s former video coach, including by a Beach confidant.

Fehr told investigators he couldn’t recall either conversation, but didn’t deny they occurred.

“Kyle Beach has been through a horrific experience and has shown true courage in telling his story,” Fehr said in a statement after the release of the report. “There is no doubt that the system failed to support him in his time of need, and we are part of that system.”

Beach told TSN last week he reported “every single detail to an individual at the NHLPA.”

“I believe two different people talked to Don Fehr,” Beach said in that interview. “And for him to turn his back on the players when his one 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 responded to Beach’s interview claims in his Oct. 27 statement.

“Mr. Beach stated that several months after the incident he told someone at the NHLPA the details of what happened to him,” Fehr wrote. “He is referring to one of the program doctors with the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program. While this program is confidential between players and the doctors, the grave nature of this incident should have resulted in further action on our part.

“The fact that it did not was a serious failure. I am truly sorry, and I am committed to making changes to ensure it does not happen again.”

The report has shaken the hockey world, and players across the NHL want answers about what transpired from a union perspective.

“It is unacceptable,” Vancouver Canucks captain and player rep Bo Horvat said earlier this week. “It’s [the NHLPA’s] job to protect us and protect the players. They’re working for us.

“[We want] to make sure that we do the right things from here on out and players’ voices are heard, and make sure this doesn’t happen again. It’s unfortunate, and it’s awful what happened.”

Whether or not Fehr, 73, can survive as head of the NHLPA remains to be seen.

Fehr is the latest big name put under the microscope for failing to act on the allegations.

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman, top executive Al MacIsaac and Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville, who was behind Chicago’s bench at the time, all resigned last week.

Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff – Bowman’s assistant and Chicago’s senior director of hockey operations from 2009 to 2011 – was absolved of any wrongdoing by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman following a meeting last week.

Bowman, MacIsaac, Quenneville, Cheveldayoff and then-Blackhawks president John McDonough were all placed at the meeting to discuss Beach’s allegations on May 23, 2010. The report said nothing was done until McDonough contacted the team’s director of human resources on June 14 – a delay that violated the organization’s sexual-harassment policy.

Having served as the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association from 1983 to 2009, Fehr joined the NHLPA as an adviser in the summer of 2010 after Aldrich resigned from the Blackhawks rather than face an internal investigation.

Fehr took over as NHLPA executive director in December, 2010, bringing stability to an organization that had gone through four different leaders since the end of the 2004-05 lockout.