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This Is Hockey Culture, Ep. 3: Hockey culture failed Kyle Beach

What is hockey culture’s role in the Chicago Blackhawks decisions? And how can we better protect players going forward?

Kyle Beach #12 of the Chicago Black Hawks skates in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the NHL Rookie Tournament on September 14,2010 at the John Labatt Centre in London,Ontario. Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

[CW: Mentions of sexual assault and abuse]

On Oct. 27, the independent investigation by Jenner & Block into the role of Chicago Blackhawks upper staff and management in the coverup of then-video coach Brad Aldrich’s sexual assault of two players concluded suddenly. I say suddenly, because while the investigation began in May, we were given no timeline of its conclusion.

Since then, Kyle Beach — formerly known as John Doe 1 — has courageously shared his story publicly, Stan Bowman and other key members of the Blackhawks organization were given the option of resigning, Joel Quenneville is out in Florida, Kevin Cheveldayoff and Marc Begervin are still employed by their clubs, and the Blackhawks were fined a paltry $2 million. And, most importantly, a broken system as to how the NHL handles instances of sexual assault and abuse was exposed.

The Chicago Blackhawks and the league failing Kyle Beach and countless others doesn’t stop at the team — or even the league. It is a hockey culture problem, one reinforced by a culture of silence and entrenched, imbalanced power dynamics. What Kyle Beach, and other players in tragically similar situations over the decades of the NHL’s existence have experienced is inexcusable, compounded by their unique positions as business assets and employees in a glory-hungry, self-governing league. Players already have a difficult time advocating for themselves and accessing help, especially in circumstances of sexual abuse and assault. The proof that it doesn’t matter even when they do report it to the relevant authorities (e.g., team management, NHLPA and SafeSport) makes that even clearer.

It’s a tough pill to swallow when you’re faced with the reality that this is a league that doesn’t care about the safety and well-being of their players.

In fact, one of the hardest parts was going back to work the next day and watching the players on the ice and knowing that there are people in the NHL — people who are ostensibly and contractually obligated to have their best interests at heart — who will not protect them in their quest for the Stanley Cup.

As we’re confronted with the evidence of a broken reporting system and lack of player advocacy and protections, we’re left with an important question: How do we better protect our players?

In this episode, Sam and I tackle a brief timeline of events to get you caught up on the Chicago Blackhawks cover-up and ensuing lawsuits, discuss the hockey culture behind it all, and attempt to offer some solutions as to how we can better protect players going forward. We hope you listen and share this episode — after all, we can’t change hockey culture unless we work and advocate for change.