An independently commissioned investigation by the NHL Players Association has found no “individual misconduct or institutional error in policy or procedure” by its CEO Donald Fehr or others in their handling of Kyle Beach’s allegations of sexual assault against Chicago Blackhawks then-video coach Brad Aldrich in 2010 .
The 20-page review, shared by the NHLPA on its social media channels on Friday and set up by Toronto-based law firm Cozen O’Connor, found that there were breakdowns in miscommunication and misunderstandings in the process of the NHLPA’s handling of Beach’s claims, but concluded, that there was no evidence of “any individual or systemic failure.”
“After a thorough examination of the contemporary record,” Cozen O’Connor’s said in his report, “the policies and practices that are in place at [players’] trade union at the time, and recollections from each of the parties in the contacts with the NHLPA or the SABH program, we can not identify any individual misconduct or institutional errors in the policy or procedure of either Fehr, the NHLPA staff or the SABH program regarding the handling of Beach reports . “
Cozen O’Connor said its review of the union’s handling of Beach’s claims “included reviewing thousands of emails, relevant phone records, verifying documents and policies for SABH [Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health] program and the NHL Hotline and interviews with eleven people. “However, both Beach and an unidentified former Blackhawks player who said he had inappropriate conversations with Aldrich declined to be interviewed by Cozen O’Connor.
In accordance with the Executive Board’s decision, the NHLPA has published the independent review of Cozen O’Connor.
Full report available here: https://t.co/9Uz2gY00xD pic.twitter.com/DtVB1LiqVG
– NHLPA (@NHLPA) April 15, 2022
Each of the NHL’s 32 teammate representatives received a copy of the survey earlier in the week, and this group subsequently voted to publish the results.
The investigation into the union’s role, and how it could have better supported Beach, stems from his initial accusations that he was sexually assaulted during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs by Aldrich. The 32-year-old Beach filed a negligence case against Chicago last summer, which was settled in December. Previously, in October 2021, the Blackhawks published the results of their independent investigation into Beach’s claims conducted by law firm Jenner & Block.
Included in this report were details regarding Fehr and his response to Beach’s allegations at the time they were charged. The NHLPA subsequently commissioned its own investigation into Fehr’s actions.
Cozen O’Connor stated that the central strife from the NHLPA’s perspective was “sharply contradictory accounts” provided by Fehr and player agent Bob Gurney about a conversation they had about Beach’s allegations and a conversation between Dr. Brian Shaw [a psychologist, and program administrator with the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program] and Beach.
According to the company, Gurney said he called Fehr in late December 2010 after Beach told him Aldrich had been hired as a video coach by USA Hockey in connection with a tournament held later that year. Fehr had recently been named NHLPA’s CEO, and Gurney felt he wanted to know more about Beach’s concerns.
Gurney told Cozen O’Connor’s investigators that he described Aldrich as either a “pedophile” or “sexual predator,” but did not tell Fehr any details about what had allegedly happened between Beach and Aldrich.
Fehr denied that investigators had any recollection of the call, as he has done since Beach’s allegations initially surfaced.
“Fehr, an experienced lawyer, has repeatedly pointed out that if Gurney had either described Aldrich as a pedophile or sexual predator or asked him to contact U.S. Hockey, he would have remembered it,” Cozen O’Connor explains in his report. “Fehr is convinced that if the incident had been reported to him, he could not and would not have taken – or agreed to take – any further action without being provided with further details regarding the alleged incident, including whether Beach had reported – or was prepared to report – the incident. “
An “exhaustive review of all of Fehr’s e-mails in the same time period” also showed no reference to a conversation with Gurney. It expanded to a further review of Fehr’s emails over the next decade, which showed no connection to Gurney. The report also found that no one who interacted daily with Fehr remembers that he ever mentioned Gurney or Beach at the time.
An incident in the Jenner & Block report that included Fehr was related to another conversation between him and player agent Joe Resnick. In an email contained in this investigation and dated April 18, 2011, Resnick Fehr said he knew the CEO had been alerted to “an incident” involving Beach.
In the Cozen O’Connor interview, Resnick did not recall receiving any response to his email, and no one was found in our review of Fehr’s emails. Resnick also did not recall any follow-up conversation with Fehr.
“Fehr acknowledged to us – as he did in the Jenner report – that he had received the email, but had no recollection of it or followed up with Resnick regarding the matter,” the report said. “Similarly, Gurney also does not recall any discussions with Fehr about Aldrich outside of his December 2010 call described in the Jenner report.”
With regard to the conversation between Dr. Shaw and Beach on whether U.S. Hockey was made aware of allegations surrounding Aldrich’s past actions, Cozen O’Connor found out it was a matter of miscommunication.
“All parties involved managed to walk away from these interactions under some misunderstanding,” the report said. “Gurney and Beach walked away from their respective conversations, believing that someone … had agreed to take responsibility for contacting USA Hockey; Dr. Shaw believed that others, either the union or Beach’s agent, would address Beach’s concerns. about U.S. Hockey, and that he was obligated to keep what Beach had told him confidential; Resnick felt he shared a concern about a coach who was strange, bullying and inappropriate, but not a sexual abuser. “
Cozen O’Connor concluded that given Fehr’s background as a lawyer, he would have known to act on serious charges if they had been communicated to him.
“Our conclusion,” the report continued, “is further substantiated by the absence of evidence that Fehr either recalled the conversation or discussed it with anyone else affiliated with the NHLPA, including his brother, Steven, who is an external adviser to the NHLPA. This departure is completely contradictory. with Fehr’s proven practice of routinely and promptly ordering others to follow up on matters of much less importance. “
Beach had been openly critical of Fehr’s passivity since revealing himself as the case’s John Doe in an interview with TSN’s Rick Westhead last October.
“I reported every single detail to someone at the NHLPA that I was put in touch with after,” Beach told Westhead. “I believe two different people talked to Don Fehr. And for him to turn his back on the players when his only job is to protect the players at all costs, I do not know how it can become your leader. I do not know. If he knows how he can be responsible, if that’s what he wants to do when a player comes to you and tells you something, if it’s abuse, if it’s drugs, if it’s something, then you need to have the players’ backs and they certainly did not have mine. “
On October 28, 2021, Fehr issued his own statement on Beach’s trial.
“Kyle Beach has been through a horrible experience and has shown true courage by telling its story,” Fehr said in October. “There is no doubt that the system failed to support him in his time of need, and we are part of that system.” In his media interview, Mr. Beach that several months after the incident, he told someone at the NHLPA the details. what happened to him. He refers to one of the program doctors [Dr. Brian Shaw, a psychologist, and program administrator] with the NHL / NHLPA Player Assistance Program. Although this program is confidential between players and doctors, the serious nature of this incident should have resulted in further action on our part. That it did not did so was a serious failure. I’m really sorry and I’m obliged to make changes to make sure it does not happen again. “