On November 1st, 2021, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly held a press conference with members of the media to discuss their response to the independent investigation of the Chicago Blackhawks by Jenner and Block LLP.
Bettman opened the press conference with a pre-written statement before taking questions from the media.
Below is a breakdown of some of the key points made during the press conference Gary Bettman and Bill Daly held on November 1st, 2021.
When the NHL was Made Aware of the Assault
According to Bill Daly, the NHL was “given a heads up by Chicago’s council team in late December with respect to a potential or threatened civil litigation.” The NHL didn’t dive further into the potential litigation until it was filed in May 2021 due to the fact the Blackhawks claimed to have looked into the litigation and “there’s no merit to it.”
Daly also said the NHL was not aware of the specific allegations until “after the civil litigation was filed in May.”
The $2 million fine
After the conclusion of Jenner and Block LLP’s investigation into the Chicago Blackhawks, the NHL fined the organization $2 million. It was decided that half of that money would go to fund local organizations in and around the Chicago community that provide counseling and training for survivors of sexual and other forms of abuse.
For the sake of context, in 2020, the Arizona Coyotes lost a first and second-round draft pick for violating scouting combine rules. Also, the New Jersey Devils lost two picks and were fined $3 million for circumventing the cap in 2010.
When asked about the difference in punishment and fines, Bettman responded “different contexts, different facts.”
However, Bettman does believe the $2 million fine will “send a message to the rest of the league. Make sure your organization is functioning properly on these matters.”
The Blackhawks Attempt to Dismiss the Lawsuit Filed by Kyle Beach and John Doe 2
After Rocky and Danny Wirtz spoke on the Jenner and Block LLP investigation and issued apologies to Kyle Beach and John Doe 2, they asked the courts to dismiss the lawsuit they filed against the organization.
When asked about this, Bettman felt it isn’t “appropriate” for him to comment on “whether or not the lawsuit has merit.”
If Gary Bettman Needs to Rethink How Closely He Keeps An Eye on the Teams in the NHL
During the press conference, Mark Lazerus of The Athletic asked Gary Bettman if what happened with John McDonough and the Blackhawks made him rethink how closely they pay attention to teams’ front offices.
The conversation went like this:
Mark Lazerus : Gary over the last you know decade plus, John McDonough was always praised for having kind of the model franchises. Does this make you rethink how closely you need to pay attention to the office cultures within these teams and how they’re really running things?
Gary Bettman : I think we have to be very close to our clubs ownership. Senior executives, we have regular interaction. I was very surprised when I read the report and how it focused on John McDonnell. And my guess is and I’m not trying to push this back. You’ve been close to the club and you had a lot of interaction with John McDonnell and I assume you’re as surprised as I am.
Something to keep in mind, Lazerus was not covering the team during the 2009-10 season.
On May 23, 2010, John McDonough, Stan Bowman, Joel Quenneville, Jay Blunk, and Kevin Cheveldayoff held a meeting to discuss Kyle Beach’s sexual abuse allegations againts Video Coach Brad Aldrich.
As of November 1st, 2021, the only attendee of that meeting who still has a job within the NHL is Kevin Cheveldayoff, General Manager of the Winnipeg Jets.
Many questions were publicly raised across the league amongst fans and media as to why Cheveldayoff still holds a job. Bettman made multiple explanations as to why Cheveldayoff was not disciplined since the Jenner and Block investigation. One of the points Bettman made was that the only person who placed him in the meeting on May 23, 2010 was Cheveldayoff. According to Bettman, “Everybody else either forgot or didn’t acknowledge he was there.” He then added that Cheveldayoff had been with the Blackhawks for nine months and was “an Assistant General Manager with fairly limited responsibilities.” Bettman also explained that “this was not something that (Cheveldayoff) not only had no responsibility for, that based on what was available to him in his minor, relatively, position at the time, he had no reason to believe that anything other than the right things were going on.”
Bettman continued to state that Cheveldayoff was “a minor player in this” and went on to say that “I don’t believe that they (Brad Aldrich and Kevin Cheveldayoff) had very much interaction.” When it was brought up that Cheveldayoff still said nothing and didn’t follow up with Senior Leadership even after seeing Aldrich still with the team celebrating the 2010 Stanley Cup Championship, Bettman explained “It wasn’t a question about speaking up. It’s not a question of values. You can’t speak up and be focused on values on things you don’t know about.” Bettman continued saying, “He didn’t know and didn’t have access to the information. What he didn’t know led him to believe that it was being dealt with appropriately.”
Bettman’s final response on Cheveldayoff’s lack of punishment was this:
“There are differing recollections as to what took place in that meeting. I think that what’s clear is the only speaking part that I think Kevin had is they asked him if he knew anything about it. And he said no. And he left that meeting, believing it was going to be taken care of. And that is my best judgment based on what I’ve taken away from the report and my conversation with Kevin, and as I’ve said, and I said in the release, I wasn’t going to paint everybody with the same broad brush, because not everybody was in the same circumstances. The easiest thing would have been to simply impose punishment on Kevin, or maybe have Kevin in a position where he thought he might want to resign. But I didn’t think that would be fair, or appropriate under the circumstances. People may differ with that, but that’s a judgment I had to make and that’s judgment I did make”
During the Jenner and Block LLP investigation, it was discovered former Chicago Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville knew of the sexual abuse allegations against Brad Aldrich but did not want to deal with them immediately due to wanting the focus of the team to be on the 2010 playoffs.
On October 28th, 2021, Quenneville resigned from his position as the head coach of the Florida Panthers. After speaking with both Bettman and Panthers’ Owner Vinnie Viola, Quenneville “concluded that the most sensible course of action for him was to resign.”
When asked why Quenneville was allowed to be behind the bench for the Panthers game against the Boston Bruins on October 27th,2021, Bettman explained that Quenneville was “entitled to due process in terms of letting me hear from him directly and judge his credibility dealing with something that happened 11 years previous.” Bettman expanded on his response by stating Quenneville “had been on the benches for the past 867 games, and I didn’t want himi to feel that he was being prejudged.”
Bettman did acknowledge that “while it may have optically not been the best look, I was more concerned with the substance than the look.”
The Possibility of Anyone Involved Being Allowed to Work in the NHL Again
Since Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville resigned last week, many have wondered if either of them would be allowed to work with another team in the future. As well as, if any future punishments would be dealt to those players who did nothing to hold the team accountable.
Bettman believes “those that needed to be separated from the game have been separated from the game.” If any of those people want to come back to the NHL, Bettman said that he will have to evaluate that at the time “taking into account all the facts and circumstances as we then know, including what may have transpired since the separation to that particular point in time.” He then went on to make it clear that “Nobody’s been made any promises”. Bettman ended by answering the question by stating, “And I’m not sure as I sit here today, how I would react at some point in the future to a request to come back.”
Moving Forward and What is Already in Place
In Bettman’s opening statement, he pointed out two things they will be doing going forward. “First, I am going to seek the assistance of outside professionals to evaluate the league’s efforts on these matters to make sure they are not only adequate but also most effective,” explained Bettman. The second thing touched on was the importance of having a hotline “principally intended for NHL personnel.” He ended his opening statement by saying the NHL intends to “use our resources to engage in a worldwide effort to create a network of those organizations to be made available to the hockey community.” They are doing this “so that wherever you may be in the hockey ecosystem, minor league, pro, major junior, college, amateur, youth, minor hockey, male or female, we think it’s important that everyone has an outlet for help.”
In reference to the NHL seeking out assistance, Bettman said the league is “going to reach out to anybody who’s interested in working with us.” One of the people the NHL is interested in having input from is former NHLer Sheldon Kennedy who was sexually abused by his coach as a child. “Sheldon has an interest in working with us. Particularly as we seek to set up a network that can provide access for anybody involved in hockey at any level,” Bettman claimed, “We would be more than welcome to work with him, have his input.”
On the subject of the hotline, Bettman and Daly were asked if it made sense for the league to have regular discussions with teams’ Human Resources departments to track issues and be proactive. Daly answered with “We have instituted a reporting culture where the clubs are under no misimpression that they are obligated to report on a regular basis to the league any inappropriate conduct in the manner that we’re talking about.” He continued stating “So, we think the mechanism is already in place where we hear regularly from the club’s with respect to reporting matters.”
According to Bettman, someone can call into the hotline anonymously and a follow-up will still happen. “To an extent, the hotline is being utilized. People understand that there is a remedy to deal with improper acts, whether or not they witnessed them or they’re subject to them.”
During the press conference, Bettman did claim that the NHL has a sexual misconduct policy. “We don’t tolerate it. And we punish as appropriate,” said Bettman. “We think you judge this on a case by case basis, and you will impose the punishment that’s applicable based on the facts and circumstances of a particular case.” He expanded on their sexual misconduct policy even more by stating having a sliding scale isn’t the way to measure punishment in these situations and that the appropriate way “is to find out what happened and maybe do a visual way that you believe is appropriate and making everybody understand what is tolerated and what isn’t tolerated.”
The Possibility of Offering John Doe 2 Any Kind of Support
On a call with Kyle Beach and his attorney, the NHL informed Beach and his family there would be counseling made available for them as long as it was needed. Bettman was asked if the same courtesy would be extended to John Doe 2 who was sexually abused by Brad Aldrich in 2013. Bettman replied he would need to “know more about that circumstance” and that he was “more focused. Because of the circumstances in front of us, on what happened in the NHL environment.” He also went on to say, “I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. I certainly would need to know more information.”
Akim Aliu and Bill Peters
Two years ago, former NHL/AHL player Akim Aliu brought forth racist allegations against his former Head Coach Bill Peters. At the time, Aliu accused Peters of using racial slurs against him while playing for the Rockford IceHogs. After Aliu came forward about the racist comments, Peters resigned from his current coaching position with the Calgary Flames.
In 2019, the NHL began to investigate the allegations of racist and abusive behavior by Peters’ towards not just Aliu but other players he coached.
When asked about the investigation, Bill Daly stated “the investigation has been completed.” He also went on to say that the “next steps were to get in touch with the team’s representatives with respect to the next steps coming from that investigation if any.”
However, According to Aliu’s rep Ben Meiselas, the NHL has not been in touch with them “for over a year” and witnesses they told them about “haven’t been contacted”.
This is news to me & not true. I am Akim’s rep & NHL has not been in touch with us for over a year. Also, investigation was into broader issues of racism Akim experienced entire career in NHL & not limited to Peters. Witnesses we told them about haven’t been contacted. 🧐 https://t.co/GeE2P614oj
— Ben Meiselas (@meiselasb) November 1, 2021
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