When it was announced that the findings of the Jenner & Block investigation into the Chicago Blackhawks would be made public it was clear that a storm was brewing.
Some took cover, like the team placing both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the COVID-19 list keeping them out of media availability. Some braced for impact, like the countless journalists across the country who could only imagine the storylines that would emerge.
Unlike the others, one man stepped into the eye of the storm. John Doe asked TSN to reveal his identity after the report went public meaning that today the world met Kyle Beach.
Before anything else is said today, let me get this out there; thank you, Kyle. Thank you for your bravery, your grace, your story. Thank you for stepping into the storm and for the example it sets for survivors across sport. The hockey community has failed you for over a decade but we promise this is the beginning of us being in your corner and hopefully, the rest of the world is right there with us.
Unfortunately, it looks like the NHL will not be joining the rest of us in support of Beach and survivors across sport. Why do I say that? Because 45 minutes after the conclusion of Beach’s interview with Rick Westhead, the coach who watched this all go down over a decade ago stepped behind an NHL bench.
Joel Quenneville was named in the report as someone who knew about the incident and yet there has yet to be any form of consequence for his actions. Yes, Gary Bettman has said he will have a “private meeting” with the coach on Thursday but after watching this all unfold it’s hard to be hopeful on that.
For all intents and purposes, this meeting is essentially an in-person hearing for Quenneville. When a player is given an in-person hearing, he can’t play until the meeting has been had, which begs the question of why is this any different?
The short (and obvious) answer is because the NHL frankly doesn’t, nor have they ever, given a second thought to survivors and their trauma. It’s a bottom-line business that uses humans as stepping stools to the next echelon of profitability. Wins are a capital good and should not be compromised under any circumstance, even if that means allowing a symbol of someone’s trauma to step onto the literal pedestal of an NHL bench.
Yes, I’m looking at you Florida Panthers with that last line. The undefeated Panthers, like the NHL, have elected not to punish Quenneville following the publication of the report. You can argue that they see this as something that isn’t their problem or as a thing of the past but the fact of the matter is that some things are, above all, a human issue and are bigger than hockey.
By no means is hockey the only industry to let perpetrators and accessories get away with the behavior but the fact that anyone watching can look at this case and recognize every bit of “hockey culture” says about as much as any string of words ever could about the need to burn this all down and start over.
Currently, we know that hockey is not a place for everyone and as much as Beach coming forward with his story made strides to show survivors they do belong in sport, the NHL’s shrugging of its shoulders at the ones who cause harm does as much if not more to slam the door in their faces.
We also know that this is not an isolated incident. Beach shed light on it when he listed off other sports organizations and athletes who have been impacted by sexual assault. Even so, the NHL felt no need to suspend the man who not only knew about what happened but wrote a glowing review of the perpetrator before sending him off to do it again.
The bottom line is that back in 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks elected to protect a video coach over their 11th overall pick. In 2021 the league has elected to protect its bottom line through non-action rather than actively supporting the humans that contribute to it. The sadder truth is that none of us can say we’re surprised.