A day after Kyle Beach’s tearful acknowledgment that he was the John Doe in the sexual assault allegations against a video coach from the Chicago Blackhawks, a condemnation of sporting culture – and support for Beach – continued to pour in.
Former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, a leading voice for sexual-abuse victims after his own experience being abused by then-coach Graham James for five years during his time as a junior hockey player, said he thinks the Chicago sexual-assault scandal provides an example of an “archaic approach” of an organization using a “systemic response,” something he feels needs to change in sport.
“We need to get to the point where winning at all costs isn’t our No. 1 priority,” Kennedy said. “Posters and buttons and policies and procedures don’t change culture. Until sport makes this a priority as they do winning, they’ll never have the change that I think people expect from them.”
Former hockey player and sexual-abuse survivor Greg Gilhooly, now a corporate lawyer, said it only takes one person in an organization to “effectively make or break you. The player is always at the whim of a coach or someone farther up the chain. It’s very much a ladder that you’re trying to climb and anyone can knock you down a rung.”
Bruce Kidd, the ombudsman at the University of Toronto and a professor emeritus of sport and public policy, said there has been a long history of abusive relations in the NHL. “Hockey is a celebration of old-style masculinity and that is part of its history and culture.”
He said he gives full marks to the Blackhawks and the NHL for taking a harder stand. “I do think it is important, but I don’t think one person should be hung out to dry and then have other things ignored. It is a systemic problem.”
Gymnast Aly Raisman, one of the sexual-abuse survivors of U.S. Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar, lauded Beach in a message on social media. “Thank you for your bravery,” Raisman wrote. “I support you and I believe you. I stand with you.”
Hillary Knight, who has earned two silver medals and a gold with the U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team, wrote to him on Twitter. “I am sorry you have to shoulder the responsibility of coming forward after living with this trauma for so many years. You are loved and supported.”
In a statement issued by Beach on Twitter on Thursday, he thanked people for the “outpouring of endless love and support that has come through within the past 48 hours.”
The scandal’s ripple effect isn’t over. On Thursday night, hockey analyst Kevin Weekes speculated that John Tortorella is among the top candidates to be the Florida Panthers head coach, replacing Joel Quenneville, who was the Chicago coach at the time of the alleged sexual assault.
And off the ice, the Blackhawks could be facing a financial loss greater than the US$2-million fine from the NHL for inadequate internal procedures. Sports-marketing experts say it remains to be seen whether there will be a sponsorship fallout. David Soberman, a professor with the Rotman School of Management with the University of Toronto, said the Blackhawks can avoid damage to their brand if they show they’re taking concrete preventive action, especially because many members of management are different from the time of the incident.