Independent investigation concludes NHL Players’ Association’s handling of Kyle Beach accusations was a matter of ‘miscommunication and misunderstanding’

CHICAGO (CBS) – The NHL Players’ Association on Friday released the results of an independent investigation into how it handled Kyle Beach’s sexual assault allegations against former Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich.

The review found there was no individual wrongdoing by NHL Players Association head Donald Fehr – nor an institutional failure of policy. Rather, the report concluded Beach’s warnings were not addressed due to “miscommunication and misunderstanding.”

The review further noted that Beach declined to be interviewed for the review.

The NHLPA brought in the law form Cozen O’Connor for an independent investigation of its handling of Beach’s claims the Aldrich had forced him to engage in sexual relations during the 2010 Stanly Cup playoffs, and had threatened his career if he did not submit.

At the time, Beach had been drafted by the Blackhawks and had briefly been assigned to skate for the team as a Black Ace.

Aldrich was allowed to resign and continue to celebrate the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup win. Beach, for its part, did not contact the NHLPA directly.

Beach also was not named in the initial reports on the abuse allegations, but later identified himself in an interview on the Canadian cable channel The Sports Network.

In the interview, Beach said Aldrich had briefly been hired as a video coach for USA Hockey after leaving the Blackhawks. Beach said his then-agent, Ross Gurney, had contacted newly-appointed NFL Executive Director Don Fehr and had told Fehr to notify USA Hockey.

Beach also said in the TSN interview that he himself made a similar request to psychologist Dr. Brian Shaw, who serves as one of two administrators for a Substance Abuse and Behavioral Program jointly run by the NHL and the NHLPA.

Beach said in the interview that neither Fehr nor Shaw followed up on any of his or Gurney’s requests.

Meanwhile, Joe Resnick – a representative of a Blackhawks Black Ace teammate of Beach’s at the time, separately contacted Fehr by email to relay the teammate’s concerns about some unspecified behavior by Aldrich, the review said.

The investigation as made more difficult by the fact that neither Beach nor the teammate would be interviewed, the review said.

Gurney said he contacted Fehr in late December 2010 and described Aldrich as either a “pedophile” or a “sexual predator,” but did not say anything specific to Fehr about what had allegedly happened between Beach and Aldrich, the review said.

Fehr said he did not have any recollection of the call – a position he has maintained repeatedly. The review said Fehr adamant that if Gurney had called Aldrich a pedophile or a sexual predator or had asked him to contact USA Hockey, he would not have forgotten about it, the review said. He also said that if the incident had been reported to him as Gurney claimed, he could not have taken further action without further details – including whether Beach himself had reported the incident or would do so.

Gurney said he did not provide Fehr with the details of what allegedly had happened, and did not follow up with Fehr on the matter, the review said.

A review of Fehr’s emails during the same period of time did not include any reference to his call with Gurney or the alleged incident between Beach and Aldrich. None of the witnesses the firm interviewed for the review remember Fehr talking about Beach or the call with Gurney either, the review said. His claims have remained consistent in avowing that he does not remember any call with Gurney, the review said.

Meanwhile, Resnick – consistent with earlier testimony – identified an email to Fehr in December 2011 that had referenced Gurney’s call, but did not provide further information, the review said. Resnick said he did not remember Fehr ever responding to his email or having a follow-up conversation. Fehr also said he got the email, but did not remember following up with Resnick, the review said.

Fehr’s personal cellphone records did indicate a 14-minute call from Fehr to Resnick within hours of the email being sent, but neither Fehr nor Resnick remember anything about it, the review said.

The investigation into Beach and his teammate’s conversations with Dr. Shaw was hampered by their refusal to meet with the NHLPA, the release said. Based on Beach’s remarks in an earlier report and the TSN interview, he said he spoke with Shaw after being provided with his contact information by Gurney. Beach said Shaw would “handle” contacting USA Hockey to report Beach’s behavior, the review said.

For the NHLPA review, Shaw told investigators that Beach described his alleged encounter with Aldrich graphically to him. But Shaw said Beach also declined any opportunity for counseling and instead focused only on whether someone from the NHLPA would contact USA Hockey, the review said.

Shaw said he assured Beach that someone would – meaning he assumed it would happen – but did not tell Beach he himself would do so or identify someone who would, the review said.

“Ultimately, the failure to act on Beach’s reports stems from a failure of communication. All parties involved managed to walk away from these interactions during some misapprehension: Gurney and Beach walked away from their respective conversations believing that someone, possibly Fehr or another person at the NHLPA, or Dr. Shaw from the SABH program, had agreed to take responsibility for contacting USA Hockey; Dr. Shaw thought that others, either the union or Beach’s agent, would address Beach’s concerns about USA Hockey and that he was bound to keep what Beach had told him confidentially; Resnick believed he was sharing a concern about a coach who was odd, bullying, and inappropriate, but not a sexual abuser, “the review said.

Beach has not publicly reacted to the findings in the review. In the October TSN interview, Beach made it clear he believes Fehr should be held responsible.

“I know I reported every single detail to an individual at NHLPA, who I was put in contact with after I believe two different people talked to Don Fehr, and for him to turn his back on the players when his one job is to protect the players at all costs – I do not know how that can be your leader, “Beach said at the time.

Read the report:

Beach’s revelation that he was the one who alleged abuse by Aldrich came two days after Blackhawks president of hockey operations and general manager Stan Bowman announced he had “stepped aside,” after an independent investigation determined he and other team executives failed to promptly investigate Beach’s claims .

Former Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville resigned as head coach of the Florida Panthers soon afterward.

Beach was the Blackhawks’ first round draft pick in 2008, and was called up as a “Black Ace” during the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup championship run, as a potential fill-in for a regular team member if needed during the playoffs.

Beach reached a confidential settlement with the Chicago Blackhawks in December of 2021.

At least 18 of the 32 NHL player reps voted in favor of releasing the report.

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