Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said Tuesday that he was never made aware of allegations of sexual assault by Kyle Beach against former Chicago Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich while he was assistant GM for the team.
At a news conference with Jets owner Mark Chipman, Cheveldayoff acknowledged that he was in the room on May 23, 2010 with Blackhawks executives – including then-GM Stan Bowman, senior vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac, president John McDonough and coach Joel Quenneville – after that Beach approached the club about what he said was inappropriate on Aldrich’s part.
But Cheveldayoff maintains that he did not immediately know the depth of Beach’s claims.
“I was asked to go into a meeting that was going on,” Cheveldayoff said. “I was then asked if I had heard any allegations or if I had known of rumors or anything similar regarding Brad Aldrich and any of the players. I replied that I did not. My involvement in that meeting after that was none.”
Cheveldayoff said he was told at the time “through some conversations” that there were “allegations of inappropriate texts and unwanted progress” [between Aldrich and Beach] and that they might be socializing away from the rink, which really shouldn’t be happening. So it shocked me, but it was limited to everything I knew.
“What I heard in the room, even though it was again not acceptable, were some allegations that in my non-legal mind were in line with harassment … and my understanding was that it would be investigated and dealt with. Had I known that there was some sexual assault involved, I would like to think it would have risen to another level. “
Beach – using the alias “John Doe” in his application – filed two lawsuits against the Blackhawks in May over how they abused his accusations against Aldrich. Chicago subsequently commissioned an independent study of the Jenner & Block LLP, the results of which were published last week.
Jenner & Block said that “all participants” in the May 23 meeting “recall being informed that there was an incident between Aldrich and John Doe that involved an unwanted sexual approach”, but that “none of participants remembered being told about the type of clearly non-sexual behavior described by John Doe in his trial or described during John Does’s interview with us. “
When Cheveldayoff left that meeting, he said he did so on the assumption that a member of the top management would escalate it. And when Aldrich was released by the organization three weeks later, Cheveldayoff said he believed the case “had been addressed.”
Despite that, Cheveldayoff still issued a statement in July stating that he “was not aware” of any sexual assault allegations made by Beach until he left the Blackhawks organization in 2011. On Tuesday, Cheveldayoff tried to clarify that statement and said it was with respect to another meeting before May 23, one with Blackhawks skills coach Paul Vincent, where Beach’s claims were discussed.
“There was a meeting with Paul Vincent and several of the leaders [from the May 23 meeting] that was named there, “Cheveldayoff said.” People started asking if I was a part of it, and I was not. And the alleged meeting has obviously happened before [the other] meeting that took place on [May 23]. So there was obviously a lawsuit involved. I was not able to introduce new facts about a meeting that I knew of. So there is nothing false or inaccurate in it [previous] statements at all. [I] never had any meetings with Paul Vincent on this matter. “
After reading the Jenner & Block report and seeing Beach reveal himself as “John Doe” during an interview with TSN on Wednesday, Cheveldayoff said he still felt remorse for not acting differently in light of what he knew.
“Kyle was let down by a system that should have helped him,” Cheveldayoff said. “But it did not, and I’m sorry that my own assumptions about that system were clearly not good enough.”
Cheveldayoff remains the only leader in the May 23 meeting still employed in the NHL. When the Jenner & Block report came out, Bowman resigned as GM for the Blackhawks, and MacIsaac was also fired. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman then met with Quenneville about his part in it, and Quenneville resigned as coach of the Florida Panthers later that day.
Cheveldayoff had a meeting with Bettman in New York on Friday, but the commissioner believed the evidence indicated that his role in the saga was too small to justify any kind of punishment.
“Because of his limited authority and circumstances, he left the meeting [on May 23] “He thought this case would be investigated by his bosses, and when Aldrich parted ways with the team, he thought that was what had happened,” Bettman said Monday.
When he was later pressured that Cheveldayoff was not held accountable, Bettman quoted the fact that it was Cheveldayoff who made it known that he was present at the meeting at all.
Chipman sat down with Cheveldayoff for Tuesday’s press conference and expressed similar feelings about his GM. The owner was emotional to share that he has personally seen the effects that sexual assault has had on people close to him. His belief was unshakable that Cheveldayoff would have done the right thing at Beach if he had been given more information.
“He did not know about the damage that had been done to Kyle. He could not have known,” Chipman said. “If he had known, Kevin Cheveldayoff, as I know, would have acted and would have done anything necessary to ensure that Kyle received incredible levels of support … that Kyle’s privacy would have been protected, and that the perpetrator would not have been in any position that might have allowed him to harm anyone else. “
Cheveldayoff promised to help make the league a more inclusive place where situations like Beachs do not happen again.
“I think everyone pays prices at different levels,” Cheveldayoff said. “I’m lucky I have an opportunity to be someone who still has a chance to make a change in the game and help grow and learn.”
To that end, Cheveldayoff said he has spoken with sexual abuse survivor, Sheldon Kennedy, about what can be done to make the game safer going forward. Kennedy was assaulted for five years as a teenager by junior hockey coach Graham Jones. Kennedy has been a prominent advocate for survivors ever since.
“When I talked to Sheldon, I committed to starting his online training and having follow-up discussions with him after that about what level we can bring it to our organization,” Cheveldayoff said. “I talked to my staff here and brainstormed about what we can do? Can we encourage [Kennedy] even being a guest coach for a day … and helping [players] think it’s ok if anything has ever happened off the rink, or my life, or if I know someone who’s hurt, [I can] say to them, ‘I understand.’ “
Before meeting with Bettman in New York, Cheveldayoff met with Jets players and encouraged them to not only read the Jenner & Block report, but also watch Beach’s interview with TSN.
“I said I wanted an organization that was inclusive in all aspects of things,” Cheveldayoff said. “I wanted an organization that no matter what race you were, what sexual orientation you were, what you believed you should feel free and safe from being a part of it and never feel excluded … Regardless it’s bullying or harassment or whether it’s you think it’s a coach or manager or coach or someone associated with you, you need to feel safe, comfortable saying no, comfortable asking a question , sure there will be no retaliation. “