After the first day of the NHL Board of Governors meetings in Manalapan, Fla., the league wanted to steer the media access conversation Thursday toward a new initiative designed to help prevent the Kyle Beach incident from happening again.
The initiative, which will work alongside Sheldon Kennedy’s Respect Group to counsel victims as well as continue to provide a hotline to report abuse, bullying and other inappropriate behaviour, comes in the wake earlier this season of accusations that Beach was abused by a video coach while with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010.
Responding to a question from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the hotline has been getting calls, but no incidents are of the “magnitude” of the Beach incident 11 years ago. He didn’t say whether the NHL is investigating any specifically, saying only that if there are incidents reported, they will be followed up on.
Bettman prefaced the discussion by saying what happened to Beach was “inappropriate” and “unacceptable,” and the NHL was “sorry it happened.”
Kim Davis, senior executive vice president of social impact, growth and legislative affairs with the NHL, is bringing corporate workplace standards to the league with the initiative.
“Every part of the NHL is a workplace,” she said. She laid out what the league is calling four facets or pillars of action that will be put in place to help foster an environment that all employees of the league, from players to owners to front-office staff, feel comfortable in.
This means trying to eliminate bullying, discrimination, abuse and other such inappropriate behaviour.
Toward achieving this goal of educating all employees about the pillars — prevention, reporting, counselling and accountability — all personnel have to complete 90 minutes of online training before June 30. The NHL will also work with all other leagues in North America so that the hockey culture is aligned on this issue.
The league will also have a “one-stop” portal to provide team personnel with materials and resources around issues such as mental health, drug abuse, alcoholism, etc., as well as abuse. Voicemail reporting of abuse can be left in nine languages.
Four other things to know from the Board of Governors meetings and media availability on Thursday:
• Although it wasn’t on the agenda on Thursday, Bettman dodged questions about the Arizona Coyotes missing tax payments (“There’s no problem, but we’ll deal with that tomorrow.”) and the possibility of the league talking to Quebec government officials about adding an NHL team in the province.
• Bill Daly, deputy commissioner of the NHL, updated the governors on the situation around the COVID-19 outbreaks in the league. He said the league was in a better position this season than it was last because the players (with few exceptions) have been vaccinated, meaning any infections have resulted in players being not as sick as last year, when they weren’t vaccinated. Daly added that this season the infections have originated in the community and have not cycled around the dressing room, as they did last season.
No information was forthcoming from Daly on whether the salary cap restrictions would be waived for COVID-shortened lineups, which has occurred with San Jose and St. Louis this season. Daly said 19 of the league’s 32 teams have employed enhanced testing and preventative measures to monitor and prevent COVID infections.
• As part of the ongoing efforts to make hockey more welcoming, Davis says the NHL has formed a partnership with Jobwell — a hiring specialist that has worked with Google, American Express and other large corporations — to create a pipeline of diverse talent.
• The sale of the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Fenway Sports Group was approved.
The Board of Governors will conclude their meeting on Friday, where the NHL’s participation in the Olympics and the state of Coyotes are expected to be the hot topics.