Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said on Tuesday that he was sorry for what Kyle Beach endured and that "he's suffered as horribly as he did," adding later that he wishes he had done more to help the former Blackhawks player in 2010.
“What Kyle went through is unacceptable and intolerable. No one should ever have to go through what he went through.” Cheveldayoff said. "Kyle was failed by a system that should have helped him but did not. I am sorry that my own assumptions about that system were clearly not good enough."
Cheveldayoff made his comments in his first press conference since he was named in a bombshell investigation published by Jenner & Block last week, which looked into allegations of sexual assault made by a former player, Kyle Beach, against a former assistant coach, Brad Aldrich, during the club's run to the 2010 Stanley Cup.
"At the time of the May 23, 2010 meeting, where I first heard about the harassment allegations, it was not clear to me what had fully transpired. It was not until this year that I became aware that Kyle Beach had been sexually assaulted," Cheveldayoff said Tuesday.
Cheveldayoff was assistant GM of the Blackhawks in 2010 and attended a meeting on May 23, 2010, that was one of the focal points of an investigation concluded last week by Jenner & Block LLP. The meeting, which took place an hour after the Blackhawks' playoff win that secured the club a berth in the Stanley Cup Final, included several other prominent executives at the time -- none of whom are still with the organization.
As stated in the official report: "Accounts of the meeting vary significantly, and the participants had limited recollections of the details of the meeting. All of the participants recalled being informed that there was an incident between Aldrich and John Doe [now known as Kyle Beach] involving an unwelcome sexual advance, but, for the most part, the participants reported that they only learned about the incident at a high level."
Cheveldayoff said Tuesday he left that meeting, "with the understanding that the allegations would be dealt with by those above me."
In the time following the meeting, Aldrich continued to work and travel with the team. The Blackhawks were awarded the Stanley Cup on June 9, 2010, and Aldrich was permitted to participate in all Stanley Cup celebrations, which meant he was also in the presence of John Doe.
That off-season, the organization gave Aldrich the option to undergo an investigation or to resign. He chose to resign, and left the team in July 2010.
"Three weeks later, upon learning that the individual [Brad Aldrich] was no longer with the organization, I further assumed that the situation had been addressed," Cheveldayoff continued. "Having had the opportunity to reflect, after reading the report, and after seeing Kyle's moving interview, I am sorry that I cannot change what took place or how the process was handled back then. But I can learn from this and make sure that this never happens again."
Cheveldayoff, who said he spoke with Jets players about the matter late last week, met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in New York on Friday to discuss the investigation and his role with the Blackhawks at the time.
The result of that meeting, as Bettman announced shortly after, was that Cheveldayoff would not face any discipline. The central tenet of Bettman's reasoning was that since Cheveldayoff was not "a member of the Blackhawks senior leadership team in 2010," he could not "assign to him responsibility for the Club’s actions, or inactions."
Cheveldayoff said he has spoken with Sheldon Kennedy in an effort to educate himself on how best to support survivors.
"Knowing what I know today, I wish I could have been an empowered bystander, as Sheldon Kennedy has encouraged us all to be,” Cheveldayoff said Tuesday. "We all must do better to ensure that we have safe spaces and proper systems in place that prioritize a person's health and well-being to make sure that something like this never happens again."
As part of Tuesday's press conference, Mark Chipman, chairman of True North Sports & Entertainment, publicly supported Cheveldayoff.
"Kevin Cheveldayoff was abruptly pulled into a single meeting where there was a general inquiry about inappropriate texts and verbal comments. He was told by the leadership of that organization that they would investigate it and look after it. He didn't have recurring contact with coaches or players in his role. He didn't know about the harm that had been done to Kyle. He couldn't have known," Chipman said during his opening statement. "However, if he had known, the Kevin Cheveldayoff that I know would have acted and would have done whatever it took to make sure that Kyle received incredible levels of support; that some time was taken to ensure that those around him knew how to support him; that Kyle's privacy would've been protected; and that the perpetrator wouldn't have been in any position that would have possibly allowed him to harm anyone else."
Chipman, too, pledged to bring positive change.
"I commit to you today that I will use my influence within the National Hockey League to acknowledge that there are systemic problems that will require systemic solutions," he said. He did not detail the specifics of how this process would unfold, but said the organization will "partner with all of hockey's stakeholders and qualified personnel to improve resources and programming to both prevent future occurrences and foster a culture where victims of sexual harassment and abuse can safely share their stories and facilitate healing for survivors."