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NHL rewards Blackhawks for sexual assault cover-up

May 24th,2023 | Opinion

The NHL told young hockey players everywhere last week that they are fine when teams cover up sexual assault incidents.

The league recently rewarded the Chicago Blackhawks for their gross mishandling and cover-up of the alleged sexual assault of former player Kyle Beach when they awarded the Hawks the first overall pick in the upcoming NHL draft — and with it, the chance at selecting generational talent Connor Bedard.

It’s embarrassing to see the NHL “reinforce the scripts of toxic masculinity,” as professor of Law and Legal Studies at Carleton University Dawn Moore puts it. The Wakefield-based sexual violence expert says she worries about the message the NHL sends young kids, like her son, a die-hard Penguins fan.

“I worry a lot about him being exposed to this culture,” says Moore. “He’s aware. I want him to know that hockey has not been a welcoming place for gay men. It’s also racist and sexist.”

The Kyle Beach saga proves that the NHL has forgotten about the human condition in the quest for billions of dollars every year.

Former Blackhawks player Beach came forward in 2021, alleging he was sexually assaulted by the team’s video coach Brad Aldrich in 2010. In multiple interviews since coming forward, Beach says that teammates hurled anti-gay insults toward him instead of supporting him. The team covered up the alleged assault and kept Aldrich on staff during the team’s 2010 Stanley Cup run. Aldrich even got his day with the Stanley Cup and participated in team celebrations. A once highly touted prospect, Beach never played a game in the NHL.

When the allegations leaked out of the Blackhawks’ dressing room over a decade later, the NHL investigated and slapped the Blackhawks with a $2 million fine. The team settled with Beach out of court, and Aldrich left the organization but went on to volunteer with USA Hockey. He later pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting one of the high school hockey players he had volunteered to coach.

The nepotism at play when the NHL spins out fines to teams is clear. When the Arizona Coyotes – the league’s lowest-valued team – violated the NHL’s Combine Testing Policy in 2019, an assessment that involves interviews, medical screenings, and fitness tests over four days for prospective players, the Coyotes were ordered to give up both a first and second-round pick in 2020 and 2021, respectively — two draft picks vs $2 million. The penalty for violating training policies is far heavier than when a team covers up an alleged sexual assault. The Blackhawks had no problem absorbing the $2 million fine after the team sold over $5 million worth of season tickets in the 12 hours that followed them securing the first pick in the upcoming

draft.

A move like this shows that the NHL is not serious about changing the culture of hockey. Homophobia and transphobia, misogyny and racism are rampant throughout the game. Until league executives like NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stop seeing dollar signs everywhere, hockey will not be for everyone, as the league claims.

The Blackhawks turned their backs on their own, covered up an alleged sexual assault that ruined a player’s career and were rewarded for it.

Wake up, NHL.

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