Photo By: Klim Musalimov from Unsplash
*CONTENT WARNING: This story, as well as videos and interviews linked within this story, deal with topics of sexual assault.*
The NHL has been pathetically failing at doing the right thing while desperately trying to look like they care in the wake of a sexual assault scandal in Chicago.
On Oct. 26, an independent investigation that was launched by the team following allegations of the sexual assault of a former player by Brad Aldrich, the team’s video coach in 2010, found that the organization had failed to properly investigate and respond to the allegations when they were initially brought forward over a decade ago.
There’s a lot to be disturbed by in this story. When the player (who at the time remained anonymous and was referred to as John Doe, but has since come forward as former first round draft pick Kyle Beach) disclosed the alleged assault to executives with the team, he allegedly faced homophobic bullying from his teammates after they found out.
There’s a number of disturbing elements at play in this story. First, it’s disturbing that both he and another former player have said repeatedly that the whole organization knew, but everyone from front office executives to current players have been tripping over themselves to deny that they had any idea what was going on. Second, it’s disturbing how the organization continues to say that they are sorry for what happened to Beach and that they support him, yet continue to try to fight him in court. Lastly, it’s disturbing that the team gave Aldrich a day with the Stanley Cup when they won in 2010, well after they knew about the alleged assault.
Sadly, when Chicago did not do their job in investigating his alleged assault, Aldrich was allowed to walk away from the team with not only a sparkling clean reputation, but several letters of recommendation. This allowed Aldrich to get a job as a coach at a high school in Michigan, and it was there that a teenage boy, who the lawsuit names John Doe 2, was assaulted by him at a team party.
It is reprehensible that this happened to John Doe 2. Had the right thing been done in 2010, it could have been avoided altogether. What is outright disgusting though is the way that the NHL has treated John Doe 2 and his family since the investigation’s findings came out.
When Beach came forward and revealed that he was the player named in the lawsuit, he put a name and a face to the allegations. When he went on TSN and spoke for over 20 minutes about everything that had happened and continues to happen, it gave people no choice but to see him as a person, not just an anonymous victim on paper. John Doe 2 remains anonymous, as is his right. While what Beach did was incredibly brave, no one should have to go on TV and let the entire world know about quite possibly the worst thing that’s ever happened to them to be believed.
In Beach’s original interview, he was asked what he would say to John Doe 2. Beach, visibly emotional, said that he would tell him he was sorry that he hadn’t done more in 2010, because in his eyes, if he had done more, John Doe 2 would have never met Aldrich. For Beach, who is an alleged victim and survivor, to be the first one to offer a genuine and public apology (especially when it is absolutely not his fault) speaks volumes about how cowardly the Chicago organization and the rest of the NHL is.
Last week, the mother of John Doe 2 gave an interview on TSN where she spoke at length about what her son and her family have gone through in the years since the assault. It was heart wrenching and everyone who watched it seemed to have an immediate and human reaction of just wanting to do whatever they could to help this family. Well, everyone except for the NHL.
When John Doe 2 and his lawyer requested that the NHL pay for him to receive therapy and mental health treatment (as he is currently working, but cannot afford health insurance), they first said that they needed to know more about the situation. John Doe 2’s mother, in her TSN interview, told them that she had all the information they could ever need if they would just look at it. Then, the NHL announced that they would not go through with any kind of payment to John Doe 2. Some said it was to avoid an admission of guilt, but legally, paying for John Doe 2’s mental health care would not inherently mean that they were assuming responsibility for his assault. The NHL is a multi-billion dollar entity, they make more than what it would cost to help John Doe 2 in less than an hour. There is no financial or legal reason why they’re not doing this simple good faith gesture.
The only explanation I can come up with is that they just don’t care. They want this case to go away, they want to forget it ever happened and they want all of us to forget too. John Doe 2’s mother said it best in her interview when asked about current NHL commissioner Gary Bettman; he doesn’t seem to have any empathy, and he should have to find a new job.